Joburg lacks building inspectors

Joburg lacks building inspectors

The City of Joburg has only 54 building inspectors to monitor illegal building activities and contraventions in the entire city of more than 3 million people.

As a result, people are flagrantly disregarding building by-laws. Within the first five months of the 2013/14 financial year, Joburg spent its entire budget allocated to fight building and planning contraventions, leaving thousands of building and land-use contraventions unprosecuted.

The Star's Metrowatch gets numerous complaints each week about people, and developers, building without consent, knowing full well that nothing will be done by the council. The DA also receives many complaints and says it is highly concerned with the countless building control and planning contraventions occurring in the city.

Councillor Dot Corrigan said: 'The city's officials respond by throwing up their hands and telling councillors that nothing can be done.

The city's development planning department, under which building control and land-use management fall, is currently running at 51 percent capacity of funded posts.

This department is responsible for building plans and zoning applications.

Corrigan added that the planning department had advised that no new positions were being filled, and they were only recycling existing posts.

'The planning department's law enforcement section has been rudderless since 2009, with only one person acting in a management position. Joburg is the economic hub of the country and home to over 3 million people, but has only 54 building inspectors. Inspector posts have remained unfunded for over 10 years,' she said.

Ward councillor Alison van der Molen says many suburbs in her and surrounding wards, such as Cyrildene, Bruma, Malvern, Observatory and Yeoville, present a huge problem.

'The member of the mayoral committee, Ros Greeff, promised action last year at a residents' meeting in Cyrildene, but nothing has been done, and there has also been little word on the progress of the Cyrildene Precinct Plan.

'I have a list of 1 000 problem properties which I reported, dating back to July 2011. These have received a bit of attention through the councillors' forum, but it seems to have died again,' Corrigan said.

Valda Goss, a Bruma resident, noted that the council's performance rose from 0 percent last year to 10 percent last year, with five out of 50 matters resolved. These involved environmental management, grass and water problems.

'There is a lack of inspection and control by management to ensure compliance and adherence to set plans and tasks. This is also true for most departments within the city council,' Goss said.

The council admits it has seen an increase in illegal land uses and building activities.

The Star

In his budget speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, seemed to suggest that monitoring needs to go beyond mere observance of the minimum governance standards and needs to delve into the efficiency of the use of funds.

In New York, they found that the overall crime rate (including violent crime) dropped dramatically when they started enforcing ALL laws and not merely focusing on major crimes.  The vast majority of laws in South Africa are not vigorously enforced and this applies to an even greater extent to municipal by-laws.

I know that such enforcement will eradicate many problems but I don't know where to find the financial and human resources to do so.  I guess that is Government's dilemma.

Gareth Shepperson
Commercial and Property Attorney


Denny Crane

Denny Crane
It's not me ... yet. Denny Crane from the TV series Boston Legal. Click on picture if you're not sure who he is!