Residents from Ext.13 Lenasia protest at the site of an illegally built house after it was demolished by a bulldozer.091112. Picture: Chris Collingridge 204


Johannesburg - The department of local government and housing said on Wednesday that the Lenasia house demolitions were as “humane as possible”.

The department had ensured that families were not directly affected by the tearing down of their homes, Gauteng housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe said in a statement.

“All the properties which were demolished during the first phase of the operation last week were unoccupied,” said Mekgwe.

She criticised those who claimed to have been displaced as a result of the demolitions.

“Some individuals who paraded themselves before the media were not living in the structures that were demolished.

“We also noted that some journalists and other people who went to (the) site later were taking their stories without carefully verifying the facts”, she said.

Mekgwe said the owners of the houses had been notified of the demolition plans and that, since no one had been affected, there had been no need to provide alternative shelter.

On Tuesday, the African National Congress's alliance partners - the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the SA National Civics Organisation and the SA Communist Party - said the demolitions had been selective.

“During our site inspection... we were dismayed and disturbed to see that the demolition of houses targeted mainly those owned by Africans...” they said in a joint statement.

“On the same land, leaving untouched business properties, expensive houses and mansions. We wonder what criteria were used to select houses for demolition.”

The housing department destroyed the houses last Thursday and Friday. It said the land they were built on was meant for government housing.

About 50 houses have been destroyed so far and another 113 have yet to be demolished.

The plots of land were apparently sold fraudulently for amounts ranging from R2 500 to R95 000. The buyers were given forged deeds of sale with the department's logo.

The SA Human Rights Commission took the department to court, calling for a stop to the bulldozing.

On Tuesday, the High Court in Johannesburg extended an order halting the demolitions. - Sapa