People living in unhealthy conditions along the banks of the Jukskei River in Alexandra would be forced to move whether they like it or not, said Gauteng Housing MEC Paul Mashatile on Thursday.
He said during a tour of the area that 3 500 families would be moved from February 6 at a cost of R35-million.
Mashatile said the move was not necessarily in reaction to the recent discovery of cholera in the river, but part of a bigger plan to rehabilitate the Jukskei River and avoid further washing away of shacks through seasonal flooding.
The relocation would be carried out in three phases and in blocks. As each block of people was relocated, heavy equipment would be moved in to clear the rubbish, and the area would be upgraded, the banks reclaimed and the area grassed.
It has been envisaged that all the riverbanks in Alex would be reclaimed for recreational purposes by August.
Once relocation was complete, the riverbank area would be fenced off and patrolled to prevent further invasions.
Those qualifying for government housing subsidies would be temporarily relocated to Alexandra Extension 7 for three months, said Mashatile, and later relocated to RDP housing in Bramfischerville, Roodepoort.
Thos who didn't qualify would be relocated to a reception area with basic water and sanitation in Diepsloot, where each household would be provided with a site.
Most residents living right on the riverbanks said they would be happy to move.
Marcus Mailula said that as long as his children had transport to school, he would be happy to get off the banks.
Lerato Chowa said she had been living on the banks since 1992 and knew the river was dangerous, so she, too, would be happy to move.
"We don't use the river, but it is a problem for parents who work because the children play there when they are away. They cross the river to play with children on the other side," she said.
But others, away from the riverbanks, opposed the move. A group, who would not give their names, said they would resist being moved.
They had erected proper houses with foundations and brick paving, and had established gardens around them.
They said: "We were born and raised in Alex. We moved here because we were living with our parents and our wives and children in one room in Alex.
"Most of us have jobs nearby. We cannot move to Roodepoort or Diepsloot. Alex is our home and we will not move. No one consulted us."