Pretoria - As a result of violent altercations in the council chamber on Wednesday, it took more than four hours for Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina to announce ambitious plans to expropriate land.
Disruptions started just as Masina took to the podium. EFF councillors asked council Speaker Patricia Khumalo about the progress on a report into the assault of councillors in the chambers.
While the EFF heckled and demanded the release of the report, Khumalo asked for security guards to enter the chambers. But the EFF councillors refused to leave, and instead threw water bottles and fought with the guards and metro police officers.
DA councillor Simon Lapping was taken to hospital after suffering injuries in the commotion. Three EFF councillors were also injured.
Khumalo allowed the parties to break for caucus, but the DA asked that she recuse herself because she had allowed armed security guards and the police into the council chambers.
Her recusal was put to a vote, with the EFF and DA declining, and with DA members holding up red cards. The ANC won the vote and Khumalo was not recused. She then allowed Masina to again attempt to give his address.
Masina did so to more heckling and booing. He then announced that the State of the City address would be delivered outside in front of residents. Addressing residents, with only ANC councillors present, Masina said the city wanted to improve the spatial profile of informal settlements which are home to 164 000 families in Ekurhuleni.
“We will give to the people all municipal land that was classified as ‘illegally occupied’ by people in informal settlements. We will expropriate on their behalf all private land that was not developed since 1994, and has since been occupied by our people to build informal settlements,” he said.
Masina said that should litigation over the land arise, the city was willing to fight in court on behalf of residents. Once the land was legally transferred to residents, the informal settlements would be formally recognised as townships.
“We will expropriate all abandoned buildings and all buildings that owe the city huge amounts in rates that even exceed the market value of such properties. This will include CBD buildings which have been converted by their owners into slums,” Masina said.
To ensure that more land was not invaded, Masina announced that the city had established a land invasions unit.
Other plans include the construction and installation by October, of a nine-metre bronze statue of the ANC president OR Tambo at the airport that bears his name.
“We will develop an OR Tambo Narrative Centre precinct which will include the establishment of the OR Tambo Knowledge Centre. This will create opportunities and spaces for our youth to talk, debate and learn from the wise heroes throughout the history of South Africa,” Masina said.
He also announced that the city had bought late SACP leader Chris Hani’s house and planned to turn it into a museum where Hani memorabilia would be displayed.
Hani’s grave was last week declared a memorial site by the South African Heritage and Resources Agency.