By Rapule Tabane and Sapa

The land dispute at Bredell, near Kempton Park, which started when the Pan Africanist Congress started selling pieces of land for R25, has developed into a political hot potato.

The PAC has warned of further land occupations and the government has threatened to arrest the party's leadership for their role in the crisis.

Land Affairs and Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said those who took money from people at Bredell could face charges of theft. They could also be charged in terms of legislation preventing the illegal occupation of land.

Didiza, in an address to the Pretoria Press Club, warned: "The government has acted swiftly enough to counter this week's illegal land occupation near Kempton Park to prevent similar occurrences elsewhere and to send a message to the world that land grabs would not be tolerated in South Africa."

Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete said in Cape Town: "We are hounding the leadership of the political party behind these occupations."

At the crack of dawn on Thursday, police swooped on the squatters at Bredell and arrested an estimated 200 people. Ninety people were later released without being charged, leaving 110 in custody.

While the government used strong words to warn that it would act decisively against land invasions, the PAC has shot back, saying that things could get worse.

PAC secretary-general Thami ka Plaatjie, speaking in Kempton Park, retorted: "What happened in Zimbabwe could be a Sunday picnic compared to what will happen in South Africa."

The PAC warned that more land invasions could follow if the government did not speed up its land restitution process. Similar invasions were already under way in Newcastle and the Eastern Cape, the party's officials said.

"The African people will find land for themselves," Ka Plaatjie said after addressing the Bredell squatters. "This is the land of the African people, being held in trust for us by the government. How can they accuse us of invading land which belongs to us?"

The land is jointly owned by the national government, two farmers and parastatals Transnet and Eskom.

Many of those who moved to Bredell have been on a waiting list for government-sponsored houses for the past six years.

A large contingent of local and international media gathered at Bredell on Thursday, all wanting to know whether the PAC wanted to follow Zimbabwe-style land invasions.

Ka Plaatjie stressed that the PAC had not orchestrated the land grab but had merely been invited by the African Renaissance Civic Movement to help after the group was turned down by the ANC.