Save Struggling Renters From Criminal Slumlords

Target: Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa

Goal: Stop dangers to building tenants posed by dilapidated hijacked buildings.

In the dead of night, a building in South Africa caught fire, killing over 70 people (including 12 children) and injuring many more (including desperate dwellers who jumped from windows to escape the flames). During the days following this tragedy, disturbing details emerged that shed a damning light on the massive failures that likely sparked the catastrophe. As far back as four years, this five-story complex had been inspected and flagged for seeping sewage, severe overcrowding, and clearly visible fire hazards. And this now-destroyed living space is part of the dark legacy of hijacked buildings within the nation’s Johannesburg area.

Hijacked buildings are illegally confiscated by criminals (usually gangs), who then act as “landlords” to the city’s most at-risk citizens, as well as migrants fleeing from persecution in other regions. These already-struggling individuals and families trade one type of hell for another, as they live in the worst type of slumlord squalor, with crammed and unsanitary quarters, no heating or air, little to no water, and broken components like fire escapes. The worst part: this structure—along with the dozens of other fire-prone hijacked buildings around it—is supposed to be owned and looked after by the city.

Sign the petition below to demand South Africa’s president confront and resolve the crisis confronting one of his country’s most important cities.


Dear President Ramaphosa,

“We are a caring government. It may fall short, but the determination to care for the people of South Africa is a priority.” Actions matter, and only decisive action will make these words more than an empty proclamation in the wake of the tragic Johannesburg fire. The burning building that claimed so many lives was not the first in the region to catch fire, nor was it the first warning sign of a festering problem with this building and with the entirety of Johannesburg’s business district. Arson may not have been the cause of this fire, but the match was surely lit years ago with every inaction.

Hijacked buildings and the slum atmospheres they create are a very real and prolonged problem in this city. The region’s leaders have failed to address and rectify this threat. The ultimate responsibility must rest with you, President Ramaphosa. Johannesburg and its crumbling, stolen infrastructure are representative of the urgent need for greater reform.

The African National Congress helped transform South Africa once before by ending apartheid. Now is the time for another sweeping era of positive change. Please lead the charge toward a better future.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Bobbyshabangu

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