By Everson Luhanga
The victims of the Marshalltown fire are first in line to benefit from a City of Johannesburg shack construction project for the poor.
The project is being rolled out on a R45 million plot initially purchased to be developed as a vehicle pound for the city.
The City said the pound was bought to generate money to boost its finances but Human Settlements will accommodate thousands on the site, mostly the unemployed.
Among the residents supposed to be moved there in the next few days are desperate survivors of the Marshalltown fire.
They lost their homes when the building, which used to house the Usindiso Shelter for Abused Women and Children, was gutted by a midnight fire, killing 77 people.
Efforts to accommodate them in other centres have caused an uproar, with residents refusing to accept almost 500 unemployed people in their midst.
Tin, one-room shacks are being erected at what was supposed to be a Johannesburg metro police department pound.
Twelve security guards patrol the place 24 hours a day.
When the Scrolla.Africa team arrived at the pound, three security company cars were stationed at different corners guarding the area to prevent people from occupying the shacks illegally.
Security guards told Scrolla.Africa, a security company from the south of the city has secured a three-month contract to guard the area.
“We are not sure how much the company has agreed to be paid by the City. We are happy that we have a job and hope to have the contract extended after the first three months,” said a guard.
According to David Tembe, chief of the metro police, and Michael Son, who was a member of the mayoral committee at the time the pound was purchased, the public safety department spent over R45 million to purchase the area and more money to prevent it being stripped and vandalised by criminals.
So far, the site, which is an industrial area, has no toilets and there are heaps of rubble lying everywhere while water leaks are not repaired.
A manager at one of the businesses, Thandolwethu Gumede, said the move would escalate criminal activity in the already crime-ridden area.
“The reason the pound was not opened after the government bought it was because they said criminals would strip impounded cars,” said Gumede.
“Now these people are being dumped here and we will see a rise in criminal activities. It is my understanding that most of the people being moved here are unemployed and desperate.”
Pictured above: The shanty-town for the homeless.
Image source: Everson Luhanga