Rights officials visit Lenasia

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IOL  lenasia nov 9

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The illegal occupation and erecting of houses on private or state-owned land is an old provincial problem, Gauteng housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe said. File photo by Itumeleng English.

Johannesburg - SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) officials visited Lenasia on Monday to gather information from residents affected by the Gauteng government's demolition of houses.

The SAHRC had earlier secured an urgent court interdict to halt the demolitions in Lenasia extension 13 for 24-hours

SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said the judge asked it to conduct a poll on how many people were affected by the demolitions.

The commission was also asked to determined how many houses had already been destroyed, and how many more were earmarked to go.

“This gives us time to consult with the residents to establish factual evidence that may be of assistance to all parties in this matter,” said Mangena.

The officials interviewed people whose houses were on the list earmarked for demolition, including men and women carrying children on their backs. They entered the details on forms

The demolitions, by the Gauteng department of local government and housing, have been widely condemned.

Last week, housing department spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa said residents were told in 2006 not to build houses on the land.

A court order was obtained to stop them from doing so, but a syndicate convinced them otherwise.

Motlhaolwa 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.

On Friday, bulldozers broke down the walls of homes.

A woman was dragged, screaming, out of her house by the police after a neighbour unsuccessfully tried to stop the bulldozers from proceeding.

Gauteng housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe was to hold a media briefing in Lenasia at 1pm on Monday, but it was cancelled at short notice. The reason given was that she instead had to attend an urgent meeting on the issue.

Mangena said the High Court in Johannesburg had granted the department an opportunity to respond to the commission's application, and this would be heard on Tuesday.

The department began destroying houses on Thursday and Friday. It said the land on which they were built was meant for government housing.

About 50 houses had been destroyed so far and another 113 had yet to be demolished.

The department defended the demolitions and said it was acting in line with the law.

On Monday, residents blockaded a road leading into Lenasia with rocks and burning tyres, in protest against the demolitions. They later cleared the road. - Sapa


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