The Gauteng provincial government pledges to give universities and colleges unused buildings to accommodate students.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced on Wednesday, March 27, that underused government buildings will be converted into student accommodation at universities and colleges in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
A few of the buildings that have been identified for release to tertiary institutions include the Old Pathology building, the TMI building in Hillbrow and the Transwerke building in Braamfontein.
Wits Vuvuzela investigated the current conditions of the buildings. A security guard outside the Old Pathology, which is opposite Constitutional Hill, said it has been out of use for nearly a decade.
The TMI building was abandoned and rundown.
The Transwerke building is largely vacant but security guard Mpho Dithejane said that the ground floor has 12 studio apartments already occupied.
In a statement, Premier Makhura said that the Department of Infrastructure Development identified these buildings in Johannesburg through the Immovable Asset Register.
The Immovable Asset Register documents all property and land owned by the government and, according to the statement, has a value of R31-billion.
Premier Makhura and his spokesperson could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print to confirm whether the current tenants of Transwerke building would be evicted to make room for students. The announcement is a result of on-going engagements with government and the private sector to address the shortage of student accommodation.
Dean of Students at Wits University Jerome September confirmed to Wits Vuvuzela that Wits is one of the institutions on the list for a state-owned building.
September added that whilst the announcement has been made public, the university is still in the process of formal communication with the provincial government.
“This communication will give details of the terms under which the building will be made available to the university,” he said. September said it will take a few months before the buildings can function as residences:
“The building under consideration will require extensive renovations.”
However, September said, “The renovations may need to be funded by the university”.
Deputy president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) Nkateko Muloiwa told Wits Vuvuzela that the SRC understood that with regards to the building, “No student is going to pay for it, but we are awaiting the finalisation process between the university and the government”.
Muloiwa pointed out the past government interventions like the temporary accommodation at Wits Waters lobbied for by the SRC prove that putting pressure on government for service delivery is an effective method of meeting demands.
“Judging from the pressure we put on them, I know they are going to deliver the building. In fact, they have already delivered the building, the only issue now is the finalisation and signing process, and we still need to evaluate those buildings,” he said.
“This victory is not about the SRC, it’s about the service to the black students who have been sleeping in libraries and other undignified places; it’s about restoration of the dignity of those who have been stripped naked by homelessness as students at Wits University,” he said.
Second-year student Lwazi Monakali said that the announcement is a step in the right direction but there are still questions concerning the accommodation that need definitive answers.
“It’s a very good initiative because accommodation for students especially at Wits has been a struggle but what I also don’t know is how long it’s going to take the government to initiate and make these renovations possible,” he said.
Through the demands made by the SRC for the university to help with students unable to afford accommodation since February, the university has assisted more than 280 students through the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCC) initiative.
FEATURED IMAGE: Students walk outside the Noswal Hall residence in Braamfontein.
- Wits Vuvuzela, Wits has no emergency accommodation – Dean of Students, January 2019
- Wits Vuvuzela, Students march for affordable accommodation, September 2018
- Wits Vuvuzela, New student accommodation in construction limbo, August 2018