Johannesburg - Ennerdale residents have decided to mark out stands for themselves and start an informal settlement, saying it’s the only way for them to get housing.
The residents said they had been backyard dwellers for more than 20 years, sharing yards with more than 25 people.
Believing the government prioritised informal settlers over backyard dwellers, more than 100 residents began clearing a piece of vacant land in Ennerdale Extension 6 last week, which continued on Tuesday, in a land invasion move.
Grass has been cut and small stands marked using paint, sticks and plastic wrappers.
In a memorandum directed at Joburg housing MMC Dan Bovu – handed over to acting project manager Ewarts Malope at the Ennerdale Civic Centre on Tuesday – residents said they would be occupying vacant land notorious for criminal activity.
Riccardo van Schalkwyk, a resident of Ennerdale for more than 15 years, believes the government has failed them.
“People are getting houses everywhere else but Ennerdale. Nothing is happening for the coloured community. This is not a political thing but a community struggle,” he said.
Residents said it was not uncommon to have five generations of the same family occupying one house.
Community leader Margery Cass said:
“We are tired of being overcrowded and here there is vacant land. When we want to buy property, we are told that in Ennerdale the stands are frozen.”
Residents also claimed unfair treatment by Joburg metro police department (JMPD) officers, after they fired rubber bullets on Monday, injuring seven.
Cass said the police never reacted violently when people in neighbouring areas such as Lawley invaded land and started an informal settlement.
“People started cleaning the area last week already. This thing has been happening in Lawley. Why did they chase out the people of Ennerdale when all other people were left (alone)?” resident Farouk Jardine asked.
JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar insisted that officers had used rubber bullets to defend themselves.
“There was land occupied illegally. Officers were attacked with stones and bricks. One female officer was hit with a brick on the head and had to be taken to Milpark Hospital.”
Bovu added: “We have explained to the residents of both Ennerdale and Lawley that we have plans in place to develop these areas in order to ease the burden of housing. One of the hold-ups is the connection to water and sewage.”
The community has given Bovu until the end of next month to respond to the memorandum.