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Johannesburg - Nearly a year after the Gauteng Housing Department demolished illegally built houses and structures in Lenasia, tension is again brewing between residents and the department.
Former Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale tried to find an amicable solution late last year but now the department is accusing residents of rebuilding the demolished structures and the residents in turn accuse the department of “running away” from their negotiations to solve the housing crisis.
Last November, 113 illegally built houses were bulldozed by the department after land had been sold to residents by corrupt officials, who charged between R2 500 and R95 000 for plots and issued the buyers with fraudulent deeds of sale.
A Special Lenasia Intervention Task Team (Split) comprising the South African Human Rights Commission, the Legal Resources Centre, legal residents, the National Home Builders Regulatory Council, Gauteng housing and the National Human Settlement Department was established after High Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo granted an indefinite postponement to demolitions and told the two parties to reach an amicable solution out of court.
But Gauteng Housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe this week said the department had been tipped off about the rebuilding. She has threatened to lay charges of contempt of court against those residents, and to demolish their rebuilt structures.
The department was monitoring the area to ensure no building took place, said Gauteng housing spokesman Victor Moreriane. He said there were 15 houses in Lenasia Extension 4 and 13 that were being rebuilt. He said those residents were jeopardising the agreement reached by the task team that no demolition or building would take place.
The task team still had to thrash out a few outstanding items, he said.
The matter would be raised at the task team’s next meeting, said Moreriane, but the province was “within its right to demolish” according to the court’s ruling and would take immediate action if the construction process continued.
He said the department had not yet submitted the report to new Human Settlements Minister, Connie September, as they were still waiting for input from “certain stakeholders”.
The report would be submitted next week, he said.
Lazarus Baloyi, Greater Lenasia Concerned Residents Association chairman, said the framework had not been adopted because of the outstanding matters.
Until these issues were addressed, the task team was not willing to sign an agreement.
He denied that structures were being rebuilt by residents and instead blamed the department, saying the intervention team had collapsed because the department was not attending meetings.
The task team had agreed on an audit of the area, which would determine the cases of each individual whose home or structure had been demolished, as each person’s case was different.
But the audit had not been presented and four meetings were postponed because of this, said Baloyi.
“This indicates that they are not part of Split. People are losing patience. People are frustrated. People’s lives are hanging in the balance. It will cause people to transgress. He said structures that were still standing were being damaged by the weather and people were losing money.”
The issues that needed to be addressed included the department’s intention to:
* Build RDP houses on the land, despite some people having stands accommodating big homes;
* Subdivide stands, which means that bigger houses would have to be split;
* Sell the land at market-related prices, contravening the government’s policy on land, which states that it should be sold at cost;
* Compensate residents whose homes and structures were demolished.
Human Rights Commission spokesman Isaac Mangena said the commission was not aware of tension between the department and the residents.
He said the process was still ongoing and there was a court order that needed to be respected, which meant that the land invaders could not continue to build.