Johannesburg - There are 3 088 invaded properties in just six areas in Gauteng - Lenasia, Lawley and Ennerdale, south of Joburg; Lakeside in Orange Farm; and Eden Park and Tinasonke in Ekurhuleni.
The Gauteng Department of Housing released these figures on Wednesday, saying the situation was untenable and had to be stopped as there were organised syndicates making money out of provincially owned land needed for housing for the poor.
Spokesman Victor Moreriane said about 900 fully constructed houses in Eden Park had been legally allocated to beneficiaries who hold title deeds, but had been invaded.
“People have held title deeds for five years and have not been able to move in because someone has stolen their property. Then, if we as a province now attempt to evict them, we are told we are heartless. We are forced to negotiate with criminals,” said Moreriane.
And if action was not taken and invasions were condoned, these syndicates would get the message that they could get away with it and would continue exploiting people, he added.
On Wednesday, a multiparty Gauteng legislature parliamentary portfolio committee on housing visited Lenasia Extension 13 to inspect 50 demolished houses and to talk to affected residents.
“The hearts feel, but the law must prevail. Our hearts are human, but we have a duty to address lawlessness. But we are here to see for ourselves what is happening and to see if there is a way forward,” committee chairman Errol Magerman told residents.
He asked if residents were prepared to repurchase the properties at market-related prices.
“Province bought this land from private property owners for low-cost housing. As it is, people who have illegally occupied the land have taken over large stands. Government policy is to densify, not to allocate large stands to people,” he said.
“We feel for the victims, but the criminal processes must unfold. At the same time, people cannot benefit from free housing where there are so many people needing homes.”
The committee will make recommendations to the province and see if there is a way forward, working with the SA Human Rights Commission, which had also done an informal census in the area.
“Our message that we need to get out there is that we will not tolerate anarchy and there will be consequences if there is wrongdoing. As we speak, we know of houses being built,” said Magerman.
Residents, however, were not happy. They claim that the issue is racist because the houses of Indians in the area have not been demolished.
Magerman said he would investigate, but had been told that their homes had been purchased legally.
“If the government was that serious about building houses here, it would have done so long ago and this wouldn’t have happened. This visit is just a waste of time and will change nothing,” said Thomas Thaga, Joburg regional organiser of the SA National Civic Organisation.
Meanwhile, the portfolio committee on human settlements has called for an end to the demolition of homes.
Chairwoman Nomhle Dambuza intends appealing to the Gauteng government to immediately stop further demolition of houses illegally built on government-owned land in Lenasia.
“The heart-wrenching and disturbing images of the government mowing down people’s homes, with women being dragged by police kicking and weeping, show the urgent need for a change of heart from this government. The judgment of the court cannot be used as a justification to misplace and render families homeless by the provincial government that ought to act humanely, decently and reasonably,” it said.
“The committee will immediately interact with all stakeholders involved to ensure a viable solution is sought to resolve this complex matter without causing further harm to the homes and dignity of the affected members of the Lenasia community.”