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SAHRC calls for public hearings into state of Alexandra

Residents had put the township on lockdown, demanding swift action against rampant crime and violence in the area.

Alexandra township residents burn tyres in the middle of the street as they clash with the Johannesburg Metro Police on 3 April 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has called for a public meeting with Alexandra residents after assessing the dire conditions in which they live.

The commission was conducting a joint site inspection with the office of the Public Protector on Friday following last month’s protests.

Residents had put the township on lockdown, demanding swift action against rampant crime and violence in the area.

The SAHRC has echoed the sentiments expressed by hundreds of protesters who took to the streets last month, describing the conditions in the township as a concern and a serious health hazard

The commission’s provincial legal officer Harriette Buga said: “We see that there’s a health hazard, especially the shacks that have been built along the Jukskei River.

Friday’s inspection formed part of an inquiry looking into the issues raised by this community.

Buga said while they had seen the conditions there themselves, they needed residents to come forward with their own accounts in the form of a public hearing.

“A call for submissions from residents of and around Alex.”

The submissions have been set to take place on Monday, 13 May this year, at the township’s multi-purpose centre.

WATCH: The ANC has done nothing for Alexandra - Malema

Alexandra residents have told the SAHRC that while the country was celebrating 25 years of democracy, they still didn’t feel free.

Officials from the commission were lost for words after receiving a first-hand account of the dire living conditions experienced by residents in Alexandra.

Led through the township by members of the Alexandra Total Shutdown movement, officials witnessed how residents in the women’s hostel brave life-threatening hazards on a daily basis.

Buga said this was worrying.

“You find that there’s quite poor sanitation and the way of life there is really poor.”

Violet Mfobo, chair of the hostel’s committee, said their votes had been taken for granted.

“What you will see on TV is all about statues, ‘we honour, we honour so and so’. This is what we’re voting for.”

Alexandra has been notorious for what many call “a minefield of dumping sites” along its streets.

And on Friday, the SAHRC witnessed firsthand how that reputation came to be.

Mam’Dolly, who lived in the infamous women’s hostel there, said the property – which housed thousands and was visibly falling apart – was a symbol of government’s neglect.

“The place is dirty, windows are broke, the stoves are not working, the toilets [are also broken].”