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Tension is mounting in parts of Lenasia South extensions 4 and 13, Ennerdale and Lawley following the cutting off of services by the City of Joburg to hundreds of properties that have allegedly been invaded.
In recent weeks, the city and Gauteng Housing Department have not only been cutting services, but have threatened to bulldoze about 800 houses, all of which are solid brick structures.
Some of the houses are worth up to R300 000.
The people alleged to have invaded the houses claim they were occupying the homes legally, and bought their properties from provincial agents. Many claim they have receipts, title deeds, approved building plans and legal water, and electricity connections supplied by the city.
The tension is now running along racial lines, with another group, called the People Against Illegal Land Invasions, wanting the “invaders” removed.
The so-called invaders now claim that this is a group of Indians who do not want them there because they are black. They say they are victimised, their properties often vandalised and their building material stolen.
But police will not act, saying the invaders are there illegally.
About 99 percent of the vacant land belongs to the Gauteng government, but, over the years, has been sold off illegally by fraudsters for up to R4 000 for an empty stand.
No one has ever been charged because residents claim the police, the provincial Department of Safety and Security and the Department of Housing are not interested in taking up the case and investigating.
Barends Sulliman said the government has been threatening them with eviction and demolition for a long time.
Last year, they took the province to court after a threat of demolition, but the Johannesburg High Court ruled against them, granting an order to the Gauteng Department of Local Government and Housing, authorising the department to demolish the illegally-built structures.
The residents lodged an appeal, but Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi told them in writing that if they withdrew their legal action, he would meet them, but that has not happened and the disconnection of services has started.
Residents now face witnessing their houses and life-savings being demolished before their eyes.
Sulliman said the MEC went back on his word and they were now desperate and threatening violence if there was any attempt at demolition.
“We stopped legal action, which would have given us time and an opportunity to fight our case, but now they are cutting us off. People have spent up to R300 000 putting up proper brick structures.
“We are not shack dwellers or invaders. If people conned us into buying stands, we cannot be blamed.
“We are the ones who stop anyone building shacks here. The area is now clean since we have built houses – before this was a rubbish dump,” he said.
Sulliman said residents were willing to regularise their papers, pay for services and even repurchase the land.
He and many others stopped building in terms of an agreement until the matter was settled. However, new people were coming into the area and building.
Sulliman said there are agents selling the land, claiming they are agents for the provincial government. They have badges, issue receipts and even hand over title deeds.
Brighton Mpande, spokesman of the Lenasia South Concerned Residents’ Association, said many documents issued by the city are fraudulent, including building plans and title deeds.
“This matter is exposing a lot of corruption,” he said.
Nicolette Kumalo said residents are tired of being treated like animals.
“In May, Johannesburg Water and City Power started disconnecting us. They stopped after we threatened violence.
“Now they want to come and break down our houses. We have spent money here on our houses, we have children going to school. Where are we going to go?
“Some of us have spent up to R300 000 making our houses beautiful. We are not shack dwellers – they must stop insulting us,” Kumalo said.
Motsamai Motlhaolwa, spokesman for the Gauteng Housing Department, said there is a plan to demolish all illegal houses that have been built on government land.
“Most of the houses being targeted are those which have been built on our land. They have had water and electricity disconnected because they were connected illegally.
“Despite a court order to remove them from that land, some owners remain defiant and continue to build further. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.”