Johannesburg - The ongoing controversy over the demolition of illegally built houses in Lenasia South took a turn on Monday morning when the owners of legally built properties embarked on violent protests.
“Where are our human rights?” was the call of the owners of legally bonded homes who pay their rates and services. They are objecting to the halting of the demolition of houses illegally built in the area on land that was fraudulently sold to the owners.
On Monday morning several groups gathered at different intersections in the area, burning tyres in protest against Friday’s Johannesburg High Court ruling that demolitions by the Gauteng Housing Department had to be stopped.
“We pay high water and electricity bills while these people pay nothing. We pay rates and bonds - and they have built for cash. They are not poor people,” said Siphiwe Gumede, who describes himself as spokesman for the Legal Concerned Residents’ Association Lenasia South.
Residents say that they are 100 percent behind the government’s decision to demolish.
“We cannot stand back and see crime unfolding in front of our eyes and condoning it. This is infringing on our rights. Why doesn’t the Human Rights Commission see that?” he asked.
The houses were being built without plans, haphazardly and wherever the owners of the illegal houses wanted.
“They are digging trenches to put in services without permission. It is out of control,” Gumede said.
The residents did not want to fight the illegal land invaders, he said, suggesting rather that it was the government that had to take control of the situation.
“If they don’t, we will. Our properties are being devalued by these illegal houses.
“They are popping up all over, even over the past weekend when they were told to stop. We wake up to new neighbours every day,” said Nokulunga Madonsela.
“I am a single mother struggling to pay my bond and water and electricity. These people just move in and illegally connect their services,” she said.
When the community tries to report illegal connections, they say, the police will not take the case.
“They say only Joburg Water and City Power can make a case. Is that fair? We are subsidising them,” Madonsela said.
“Enough is enough. We have been living here legally for over 20 years. If it is so easy, we will also start taking land for our children to build,” said Molly Allard.
“We also don’t want [Julius] Malema here. He is encouraging crime with land invasion. We will chase him away if he comes here.
“We would like to see what would happen if they did this next to his Sandton house,” said Sumeya Shaik.
Clement Mzizi asked what would happen if land was invaded in Sandton by people who would then build on it illegally.
“These stands are being sold from a car boot - they park outside the BP garage. Buyers know what they are doing is illegal,” said Mzizi, who has lived in Lenasia South extension 4 for 17 years.
“Many of the land grabbers don’t live in the area. They buy four or five stands, build two-room houses, or double-storey nine-room houses, and rent the rooms out at R1 200 per room.”
Mzizi said he had visited these houses and most of the tenants did not even have ID numbers.
“People are profiteering in our area,” he said.
Resident Sharon McFarren said the illegal occupiers threatened the legal owners.
“They tell us that if their houses are broken, they will come and break ours down. We no longer feel safe in our own suburbs,” she said.
In the past month the Gauteng Housing Department has been demolishing houses in Lenasia extension 13.
The HRC questioned the manner in which the demolitions were being done through an action in the Johannesburg High Court.
Two weeks later the Housing Department moved to Lenasia South extension 4, where a further 35 unoccupied houses and walls were demolished.
The Housing Department has been insisting that demolitions have to take place as the land is earmarked for low-cost housing where people have been waiting for years for a small piece of land.
Motsamai Motlhaolwa, spokesman for the Gauteng housing department said public meetings and discussions will be held today to discuss the demolitions.
“It was therefore unnecessary for these residents to be protesting - they are only raising tensions,” he said.