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Johannesburg - Residents of Lenasia South, where the Gauteng housing department continued demolishing houses on Monday, want to know why authorities took so long to act.
“The police, department officials, they drive right past here everyday.
Why are they demolishing houses now?” asked local resident Thabo Malekete.
The Gauteng housing department started breaking down houses in small clusters in the area on Monday morning.
The stands on which the houses are built were apparently fraudulently sold for amounts ranging from R2500 to R95,000.
The buyers were given forged deeds of sale with the department's logo.
Malekete, who runs his own business and is a father of two, said the matter of fraudulent title deeds should have been nipped in the bud 10 years ago.
On November 8 and 9, the department began demolishing houses, built on land intended for government housing.
Malekete said that when he bought his land, the process seemed legitimate and he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
“The man took my ID book and said he needed it to register with the housing department.
“He had maps and stand numbers, on the land were pipes for water and lines for electricity. It seemed to all be legal,” he said.
Another resident, known only as Mondo, said: “I am not an invader, I bought this piece of land.”
Residents were confused as to why the demolitions were going ahead, in contravention of a court order.
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) approached the High Court in Johannesburg and obtained an interdict to halt the demolitions.
On Thursday last week, the matter was postponed until Friday.
“I was there in court and the judge said there could be no more demolitions until Friday, at least,” a young man told reporters.
SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said demolitions should not have gone ahead as this was “against the court order”.
On Monday morning pupils from a local high school were levelling the land around one house with spades. “They came before their exams, to make (the ground level) so that we can park cars to block the bulldozer,” one woman explained.
Residents could also not say why certain houses were demolished, while others in the same street only received notice that their houses would be knocked down in several weeks or months.
Across the road from several houses reduced to rubble, stands a home with established rose bushes and carefully tended hollyhocks.
At another site, men were collecting the corrugated iron from a house which had already been flattened.
Standing on the veranda of an unoccupied house marked for demolition, one resident threatened to protect his house “to the death”.
Chairman of the Lenasia South concerned residents committee, Lazarus Baloyi, said people went into his partly built home in protest against an attempt to demolish his home on Monday morning.
Baloyi's house was one of the few still standing after some of the surrounding houses were flattened in the process.
“The people said they would rather die than allow them to demolish the house,” Baloyi said.
He said his house was not on the list of houses scheduled to be knocked down.
“If they started putting in RDP houses then that would block people from moving into open land,” Baloyi said.
The land was left undeveloped for many years and was not cordoned off to indicate it was municipal land.
“People have shown they are willing to buy the land,” he said.
“This land has been here for more than 18 years and nothing has been done.”
He said he had handed in building plans to the municipality but was told it was government land.
He nevertheless continued building on the land last year May.
The wrecking crews were supposed to return to Baloyi's house at noon, but by 12.20pm had not arrived.
Members of the culturally diverse community thronged the street, watching for the bulldozers' arrival. - Sapa