On 19 August 2018, SERI's executive director, Stuart Wilson, appeared on SABC News to discuss the "acute housing crisis" that the City of Johannesburg is facing and dispel myths about the unlawful occupation of abandoned buildings.

Wilson criticised the use of the word 'hijacked buildings', by stating that:

"[I]t is an extremely inappropriate way of criminalising desperately poor people who occupy buildings that have been left completely fallow by their former owners and have nowhere else to go. Buildings are not hijacked like planes or cars, they're often abandoned by their owners. We know in the late 1990s and the early 2000s many companies were liquidated, people emigrated from South Africa, and a lot of proprietary value of the inner-city of Johannesburg was abandoned; and there was a pressure on housing in Johannebsurg as influx controls were lifted and 80% of South Africa's population, which under apartheid had been consigned to 20% of the land, moved into urban South Africa... Any abandoned buildings were immediately occupied by poor people who have nowhere else to go."

 Describing unlawfully occupied buildings in this way "plays into the City of Johannesburg's efforts to paint [desperately poor] people as criminals, and not as people who the City and the state generally has failed". Wilson noted that:

"The real problem we're facing is that there are at least 60,000 people in inner-city Johannesburg who are completely unable to afford to rent on the private market and there's absolutely no plan or solution fo their housing needs."

  • Watch the full interview here.

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