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City of Johannesburg fails to provide services in Zondi

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Owners of properties in Soweto are charged rates and taxes though their stands are not connected to basic services and they are unable to occupy their own land

On 2 October 2017, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) brought an application against the City of Johannesburg, the Johannesburg Property Company and the Department of Housing on behalf of nine individuals.

These individuals all bought properties in Zondi, Soweto, under the Land Regularisation Programme between 2009 and 2014. When they tried to connect their stands to water services, they found that the City had not installed the necessary infrastructure and they were unable to build homes on their properties. These nine men and women are forced to pay rent to live elsewhere and incur extra transport costs because they cannot live on their own stands closer to schools, hospitals and places of work.

In addition, the City of Johannesburg has since started charging them for rates and taxes despite the fact that they are not connected to services and are unable to build and live on their own properties. The unpaid accounts have been handed over to debt collectors, which negatively impacts on their credit histories. They have tried many times to engage with the City and the Johannesburg Property Company with no success.

The community has approached the South Gauteng High Court, asking for an order declaring that the City’s conduct has been unconstitutional and to direct them to install the necessary infrastructure, as well as write off the rates and taxes they have been charged while they have no access to basic services.

“The City of Johannesburg is responsible for providing water, sanitation and electricity,” says Lubabalo Mabhenxa from the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. “The City has done nothing to fulfil its constitutional obligations in Zondi. There are many structural barriers to the ownership of land for many disenfranchised people in our country. Even when they do finally obtain it, the Municipality is not able to do its part to ensure that that land is sufficiently serviced.”

The City of Johannesburg is opposing the application.