File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements has obtained a court interdict barring land invaders from illegally occupying provincial land in Southern Farm, Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg.

This follows ongoing battles between the department and residents from various communities who have been turning vacant land into informal settlements in areas such as Ennerdale, Eldorado Park, Freedom Park, Diepkloof, Lenasia, Naledi, Orlando, Alexandra and Meadowlands.

The department approached the South Gauteng High Court to stop the widespread land-grabs after residents occupied vacant land in South Farm in September.

Last week, the land invaders gathered at the Gauteng High Court where their legal representatives were expected to oppose the interdict. However, the matter was postponed to next year on February 10.

But the invaders said they were not backing down on their intention to occupy Southern Farm. They camped outside the court singing struggle songs in support of their legal representatives and their leaders who were inside the court.

An activist and a pastor, Gay Mattera, said she had been pleading with MEC Lebogang Maile to come and address them on the matter.

“But he refused and rejected my letters. This is sad because all the people who are here today are homeless and desperate for land. There is also unemployment and hunger. If you go to Eldorado Park, you will find that there are about 20 people in one flat, and this is sad because some of them are disabled. Today I came here to support these people because I know what they are going through,” she said.

The Gauteng Housing Crisis Committee (GHCC) spokesperson Seth Mazibuko said the Human Settlement court interdict was aiming at protecting white monopoly capital.

“Also, this court action is merely a smokescreen to disguise the true motives and intentions, namely to perpetuate the corruption and protect those who up to today have not even been able to account on Alexandra and Vaal renewal programmes. They also divert the homeless people of this country from taking ownership of the land that rightfully belongs to them to shelter and feed themselves and their generations to come,” said Mazibuko.

Gauteng Human Settlement spokesperson Castro Ngobese did not provide a reason why the department won’t allocate the Southern Farm to the occupiers.

However, Ngobese said it was the government’s responsibility to protect its land.

“If we don’t do that, it will create a serious challenge and hamper our efforts in terms of planning and render the province a slum.

The court order will also assist, not only to protect land, but it will make things easier for law enforcement agencies to evict illegal land invaders within the parameters of the law, said Ngobese.

But Shepherd Masiza, from Freedom Park, said they were promised stands by the ANC in Southern Farm in 2017 after they had occupied land near the R559 outside Freedom Park.

He alleged former Gauteng MEC for human settlement Paul Mashatile, currently the ANC’s treasurer general, promised them this land.

“So we decided the best way forward was to find land so we can build for ourselves.

"We did this because many people here are old and living in the back rooms with their parents, which is not fair because I have five children and there are other children at home. Just imagine that mess,” he said.

The 43-year-old added: “Then the government sent the SAPS to demolish our shacks and we decided as a community to take to the streets.

"Then Paul Mashatile told us he heard our grievances and said there was available land in Southern Farm. But until today, nothing happened. It was just an empty promise. In September we decided to occupy that land and government issued a court order against us,” he said.

A Pimville resident, Joyce Ntsendwana, said the court interdict was not fair as the government had never been prepared to provide them with RDP houses.

Ntsendwana was one of the residents who occupied Southern Farm. The 65-year-old, who rents a backyard room, said she registered for the low-cost housing in 1996.

Sunday Independent