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 - Sanco has called on the government and Lenasia residents to “smoke a peace pipe” and engage in more dialogue.

“A lot of harm has happened in the past few weeks. We want to call on all parties to smoke a peace pipe and engage in dialogue over the matter,” the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) said on Monday.

It said the provincial government's demolition of houses built on land which had been illegally sold was extreme and could not be condoned.

Shanty towns were mushrooming all over the country because people needed shelter.

“Holding onto the stance that they have a court order to demolish the homes - built through sweat and blood - does not soothe the pain that the victims are suffering,” Sanco said.

The bulldozing of the houses began last Thursday. The housing department said the land the houses were built on was meant for government housing.

About 50 houses were initially destroyed and there were plans to knock down another 113.

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

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) took the issue to court and, on Monday last week, won and urgent application forcing the department to stop the demolitions for 24 hours.

That order was extended for a day on Tuesday, and on Thursday, lawyers for the local government and housing department told the court no houses would be demolished until court proceedings began on November 23.

However, on Monday, the Gauteng housing department started breaking down houses in small clusters in the area.

The housing department said the SAHRC court application did not affect an existing court order granting it permission to demolish the houses.

SAHRC spokesperson Isaac Mangena disputed this and said no more houses could legally be knocked down pending Friday's court appearance.

Sanco has appealed to housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe to give the residents affected temporary shelter and services.

“In the same vein, we call on the authorities to stop demolitions and engage in more dialogue,” it said. - Sapa