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Johannesburg - The demolition of houses in Lenasia was in the best interests of poor residents, Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane said on Monday.
“We are acting in the best interests of the poor people, (who are) waiting somewhere in their shacks, in their backyards... waiting for their (government) houses to be built,” Mokonyane told reporters in Johannesburg.
She said Lenasia residents, whose houses were being destroyed, knew about the land invasion a long time ago.
A court interdict in 2010 prevented the department of housing from demolishing the homes, and prevented residents from building new homes on the land.
Out of 164 illegal occupants, only 11 co-operated with the department.
“Out of that 11, only three have legal documentation,” Mokonyane said.
She said the government was in the process of helping those three residents.
They would also be prioritised when new RDP houses were built, because of their co-operation.
She said the government had been sympathetic to the residents.
Although it was ordered to demolish the houses in September last year when they continued to erect houses despite the interdict, it began doing so only last week.
Mokonyane said the demolitions had to send a strong message to other fraudsters continuing to illegally sell land in Gauteng.
The department of housing began destroying the 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.
Defending the demolitions, the department 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.
The demolitions have been widely condemned. - Sapa