A massive, land grab is taking place by affluent blacks who own nice cars who are squatting on land in order to take possession of it. Government officials and police are ignoring the problem and apparently condone the activity. Meanwhile, a precedent for lawlessness and land theft is being set.
Army troops in Cape Town.
As land invaders accused property owners of being racist, Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements Lebogang Maile said the widespread land invasions in Johannesburg South are the work of syndicates in cahoots with officials, and in some instances, police officers.
“There are syndicates who are making money out of the desperation of our people. It is alleged that the syndicate has connections and is working with some government officials and in some instances police officers. It’s a serious concern”.
Johannesburg South residents have vowed to go to war with land invaders if the government continues to allow land invaders to build shacks in the area. The threat comes on the back of widespread protests last week in Zakariyya Park, Lenasia and Ennerdale.
By Friday 19 July, the protests had spread to other areas in the south of Johannesburg including Protea South and Kliptown.
More officers were deployed to the areas on Friday morning as the protests spread.
Many property owners said they had decided to take matters into their own hands because the government was not willing to address the issue of random land grabs in the area. The affected areas were on lockdown on Friday, with the main roads leading in and out of Lenasia blockaded with burning tyres and rubble. Traffic also built up on the Golden Highway as Eldorado Park and Zakariyya Park residents voiced their unhappiness by blocking it.
The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) denied suggestions on Saturday that the land grabbers and property owners were attacking one another.
Johannesburg Metro Police Spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said, “A group of people went past houses to meet the MEC for Human Settlements, Lebogang Maile. It was exaggerated that people were being attacked. The people were only passing to get to the MEC.”
One land grabber, Sabelo Mbuyisa, denied claims by property owners that land invaders were making illegal electricity connections and devaluing property. Mbuyisa said such claims were fueled by hatred and racism.
“We have not encroached on anyone’s property. We are a distance away from their houses. We do not make illegal connections, we don’t steal and we are not responsible for damage to electricity infrastructure. They are racists who cannot bear to live side-by-side with black communities. We are going nowhere. They can send in Metro Police, we won’t budge.”
Maile promised residents all their challenges would be addressed, but stressed that this would require a concerted effort.
“It needs a multi-sectoral, multi-pronged approach,” said Maile.
Asked where the money would come from, Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure Development Tasneem Motara, who accompanied Maile, said:
“It has to be included in our budgetary process and plans, and if it needs further engagement with national Treasury and national departments, we will facilitate that. But for the non-budgetary issues like the court orders, these will simply be enforced”.
Addressing residents on Saturday, Maile pleaded with them and the land invaders to retain calm while the City, premier’s office, the department of infrastructure, and the department of human settlements devise a strategy.
“The problems are complex. We cannot resolve them on our own. When we return, we will ask Premier David Makhura to come along so that he can assist in detailing a plan for addressing the land invasions.”
Many property owners said they were done with negotiating or seeking government intervention, and would fight to preserve the value of their properties.
Michael Loonat from Lenasia South said: “We will fight to preserve the value of our properties. We will go to war because the government is aware of the matter but still dragging its feet. We are tired of being bystanders in matters that directly affect us. We hoped the government would intervene but now look at what is happening.”
Fatima Faranaaz from Lenasia South said: “We are done talking. How do you talk to a government that doesn’t listen? It’s time we fought to defend our houses. It’s time we fought to protect our electricity infrastructure which is also under threat from these illegal land invaders. Even if I die, I’ll die peacefully knowing that it was within my rights to fight to protect what is mine.”