Johannesburg - The demolition of houses in Lenasia extension 13 and Lenasia South extension 4 is set to ahead this week after residents on Friday lost an application for an urgent court interdict to stop the evictions.
The Gauteng Department of Housing and Local Government is now expected to resume the demolition of illegally-built houses this week after a planning meeting on Monday. It has started demolishing some of the houses already, but is now set to target occupied houses that have so far remained untouched.
Terrified homeowner Thabo Ranko does not know what this week holds for him.
On Friday, he was outside his new home when bulldozers started ripping down his perimeter wall in Lenasia extension 13.
He stared in disbelief, banging his fists against his car and shaking uncontrollably at the thought that the bulldozers would flatten his house.
He started weeping, not sure how to defend himself and his wife and child, who were inside the home.
But luckily the bulldozers moved on to another property.
Some community members say the evictions have been put on hold, while others are talking about taking out an urgent interdict to stop the demolitions and others are expecting the worst.
The demolition of walls around the occupied houses was a warning by the Department of Housing and Local Government to residents who have built illegally on their properties that they have to move out.
The department had started on Thursday and Friday by demolishing only unoccupied houses and walls around occupied houses. Now it is adamant that occupied houses will be demolished over the next few days.
Ranko said he paid R65 000 for his land and another R75 000 to build his house. He lives in it with his wife and child and two relatives.
He showed The Star an “original” document on a housing department letterhead which states that his application for his stand was successful, and that “the legal department was busy with transfers”.
“I did everything right. What am I going to do? I took loans to build the house,” he said.
Last week, the housing department demolished about 70 partially built, unoccupied houses and perimeter walls.
Residents attempted to stage a protest and burnt tyres to prevent the bulldozers moving in, but a large number of police, accompanied by metro police officers, private security companies, and nyala and Casspir armoured vehicles moved in, removing the barricades and residents who attempted to stage a sit-in in the road.
The housing department’s head of communications, Victor Moreriane, said residents had been warned many times not to build, or to vacate their properties if they had purchased them illegally.
But not only had people continued building, but they had improved on existing ones, knowing that eviction action was imminent.
About 12 bogus agents found selling the land were arrested, Moreriane said.
“These agents told the buyers that once the house was complete, the government would not demolish it.
“We have people on the ground monitoring the situation, and every time we see someone starting to build, we warn them not to continue. But that makes them only build faster,” he said.
The department obtained an eviction order in October last year, so residents were aware of what was happening, he added.
“There is a huge syndicate operating here and in another eight areas around Gauteng. They are well organised and make a lot of money illegally selling government land to people. It has to be stopped. People are occupying the land illegally.
“Out of 613 stands in Lenasia, only 13 of the ‘owners’ are on a housing waiting list, meaning that the others have jumped the queue by buying properties fraudulently,” Moreriane said.
Furthermore, the City of Joburg was losing R300 000 a month in unpaid electricity and water services due to illegal connections to the properties.
Community leader Sulliman Barends said the affected residents would monitor the situation and consider their next step on Monday if evictions continued.
“We don’t know what is going to happen if they proceed with the bulldozing of our houses. There have been rumours that no one authorised the demolitions and that they will be stopped,” he said.
Housing department head Mongezi Mnyani said that following the interdict, there was no reason not to resume the demolitions.