City of Johannesburg manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni has denied reports that he accepted responsibility for the demolition of alleged illegal structures in Alexandra last week.
“Dr Lukhwareni did not indicate that he had authorised the demolition of the structures in Alexandra. This must be categorically understood,” The City stated in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.
“Lukhwareni sought to explain that, as the City Manager, he assumes ultimate responsibility for the administration in Johannesburg. The City Manager did not personally issue the instruction for demolitions to take place, he felt compelled as the Accounting Officer of the City to be accountable for administrative activities in City.”
The municipality further clarified that the instruction to demolish illegal structures in the township of Alexandra came from the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and, as a result, Mayor Herman Mashaba has since requested Lukhwareni to initiate an independent investigation into the decision-making process that led to the “the unfortunate events of last Friday”.
The statement comes after a media outlet posted to Twitter claimed the city manager told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Wednesday that the demolitions took place under the perception that the homes were unoccupied and incomplete.
The tweet read that Lukhwareni had “authorised” the destruction of more than 80 structures.
‘A caring government’
“From my understanding, the structures targeted were unoccupied and incomplete and those which were complete were unoccupied.
“As I said, we keep on understanding me and you differently. You talk of people staying there. I talk of the report that I got that shows that the structures were unoccupied. I have stated that this a caring government. Even our budget is done in such a way that 60% of the capital expenditure goes to poor households, (sic)” he told the commission in the video clip.
The SAHRC is holding an inquiry into human rights violations in Alexandra.
On Monday, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba visited the troubled township and vowed to hold those responsible for the demolitions accountable.
Mashaba said the question of who authorised the demolitions also needed political intervention because, in his capacity as an executive mayor, he had given an instruction for the City not to carry out demolitions without him being told about, and approving them, News24 earlier reported.
The Red Ants, which carried out the demolitions has rejected claims that it acted unlawfully.
“Red Ants categorically disputes and rejects such allegations and hereby clarifies the processes that led to the requested demolition services and, in particular, its role in the operation,” spokesperson Fuzile Balintulo said in a press release on Wednesday.
Balintulo added that they were in possession of a court order from the City – obtained against the unlawful occupiers on September 7, 2016- and handed down before the local Gauteng Local Division.
“The court order interdicted unlawful occupiers from invading and erecting further structures on the properties described as: portion 310 Marlboro Gardens Ext 1, portion 232 and portion 233 Marlboro Gardens, and Portion 35 Lombardy Division IR Gauteng, and Erf 222, 228, 229, 264, 268, 281, 287, 290 and 291 of Marlboro Gardens.
“The court order also authorised the Sheriff of the High Court to remove any person found in the breach of the order and to demolish any illegal structures erected on the property after services of the court order,” Balintulo said.
The evictions company said that it only got involved in the demolitions after it was hired by the City as a “duly contracted service provider” on April 25 this year.
“Red Ants regularly conducts demolition services within the bounds of the law, under the eye and instructions of the Sheriffs of Courts, the JMPD and members of the SAPS.
“It is unfortunate and untenable that the plight of the people of Alexandra and the reputation of the Red Ants have been used recklessly, unethically by politicians and for political posturing,” Balintulo concluded.