City of Joburg to cut off power to hijacked buildings

The City of Joburg is expected to disconnect power at several hijacked buildings in the central business district on Wednesday.

This comes after more than 70 people died in a fire at the Usindiso building in Marshalltown in August. 

Usindiso, which was first used as a shelter for abused women and children, was hijacked from the Gauteng Department of Social Development in 2019.

It was home to at least 200 families, including former abused women and children, and many others who were undocumented immigrants.

Joburg Property and Managers Association chairperson Angela Rivers said at least 57 state-owned buildings have been hijacked in the Joburg inner city. 

City power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said the buildings are believed to be occupied by suspected illegal and extremely violent occupants.

“City Power is ramping up revenue collection efforts, and as a result, the actions of those who hijack buildings are not different from those of the illegal connectors who put pressure on our electricity network and further hinder revenue recovery efforts,” he said. 

Mangena said the illegal connection of electricity is theft and law enforcement agencies will be part of the operation to cut off power to illegally occupied buildings.

Recently, Joburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda held a sting operation together with the Joburg Metro Police which led to the arrests, including a councillor. During the operation, officials found people on site claiming to be contractors for the owners.

It has also been revealed that a preliminary investigation by the JMPD showed that a senior police official may be involved in the invasion of a municipal property. 

The property in question, which was intended to be used as a pound by metro police, was purchased in 2019 for R40-million.

The property has been identified as a possible site for temporary accommodation for the victims of the Marshalltown fire. 

Premier Panyaza Lesufi is on Wednesday expected to announce the terms of reference for the commission of inquiry into the fire that left 77 people dead and many injured and homeless.

The inquiry, established in early September, will be chaired by retired Constitutional Court Judge Justice Sisi Khampepe. It will investigate the pervasiveness of hijacked buildings in Johannesburg and the cause of the deadly fire, including who must take responsibility for the tragedy.


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