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Fury as residents battle to stop evictions

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lenasia demolished

THE STAR

Residents inspect the remains of their homes in Lenasia after they were demolished by Housing Department officials and police. Photo: Itumeleng English

Johannesburg - Neighbours of Lenasia residents whose houses were targeted for demolition on Friday were angry about the housing department's actions.

“Why can't the government give these people monetary penalties if they build illegally on the government land?” said Patrica Mangena.

Earlier, police had to drag a woman holding her child screaming out of her house after it had been identified as one built illegally and therefore earmarked to be demolished.

At another house, bulldozers broke the wall of the yard in the owner's absence.

When she arrived, she shouted: “Who broke my wall? They are going to (re)build it, by fire, by force.”

She continued: “I have documents for this house. I stayed here for more than 10 years. This house was on auction.”

Other residents shouted: “This woman has a document for this house. This house is not part of corruption.”

The Gauteng housing department said it had identified 113 houses in the area, which it said were illegally built on land intended for government houses.

“Investigations by the department's anti-fraud and corruption unit revealed that fraudsters sold several stands (for amounts) ranging from R2500 to R95 000, and issued buyers with fraudulent deeds of sale which bore the department's official logo,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

Thirty-seven houses were destroyed on Thursday.

Spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa said the owners would not be compensated for their losses.

As police and bulldozers moved through the area, some residents said their houses were on the list to be demolished, but they were not given notice as the housing department claimed.

In response, Motlhaolwa said: “They know nothing.”

He said where houses contained furniture, only the walls were broken as a warning to residents to vacate the houses or to demolish them themselves.

“We (have) even given them a chance to demolish the houses built illegally themselves, so that they can even pack their bricks, their windows, and doors.”

He said they should also remove their furniture.

“Then we will come with the Red Ants if that is not happening,” he said, referring to an eviction company whose employees wear red overalls.

Another resident said they were the victims of fraudsters.

Sam Mfupa said so far he had spent about R250 000 to build his house.

“We can't be victims of con artists from the housing department. The government must arrest these people who sold us this land,” he said.

Motlhaolwa said residents were told not to build houses on the land in 2006 and that a court order was obtained to stop them from building, but a syndicate had convinced them otherwise.

He said three members of the syndicate were arrested for fraud in 2009 and had since been jailed.

“They forged the (head of department's) signature and used (the) department's letterhead,” he said.

Investigations were continuing and more arrests could be made.

Earlier, residents in Lenasia Extension 13 barricaded roads and set tyres on fire in protest over the demolition, said Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela.

He said no one had been arrested or injured. - Sapa


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