Simon Sizwe Mayson

Assistant director of inner city transformation, City of Johannesburg

Simon Sizwe Mayson (28) has always been fascinated and inspired by solving housing challenges. As acting director of inner city transformation at the City of Johannesburg (CoJ), he is perfectly placed to make real changes in the lives of thousands of people.

He was born into an activist family, and his grandfather was charged in 1981 with high treason under the Terrorism Act and imprisoned, tortured and exiled during the State of Emergency. Mayson’s middle name Sizwe means “nation” and was given to him by his parents’ UDF comrades.

“My name was inspired by the hope of a new nation beyond the violence of the times. I feel I’m a product of those times, and am driven in my work to fulfil my potential to help South Africa realise its potential. Like my grandfather, I aspire to be a change-maker, a thinker and a doer.”

During his studies, and his internship with UN Habitat in Nairobi, Mayson chose to live in high-density, and sometimes slum housing to experience and better understand the challenges inner-city people face.

“Inner-city Johannesburg, despite being a mayoral priority and pinpointed at provincial and national level as the hub and core of Gauteng, had neither formal policy, nor implementation by the housing department. Yet decent, affordable housing is arguably the key to transformation there.”

Mayson co-ordinated the development of the Inner City Housing Implementation Plan, through a partnership with the Johannesburg Social Housing Organisation, Johannesburg Development Agency, the City’s Planning Department and the CoJ Housing Department.

“The process was hard going for our team, but we managed to secure quite a shift in the CoJ’s thinking around the municipality’s role in the provision of affordable housing, and in evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation, particularly within the inner city.” — Linda Doke