Violent end to EFF ‘land grab’ attempt
Johannesburg - A land grab attempt by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) turned violent in Kagiso on Friday when a group of residents clashed with police and Red Ants, and a vigilante mob draped in ANC T-shirts arrived to deliver “street justice”.
The exercise of invading vacant land in Swaneville, Kagiso – west of Joburg – by EFF members ended in tears, broken ribs, scars and blood for some who had come to be allocated free plots to erect shacks.
More than 300 portions were being allocated to about 700 people who formed two long queues to register their names for the land earmarked for a shopping centre, when police in full riot gear and Red Ants arrived to remove them.
The police ordered the crowd to disperse from their “illegal gathering” and remove poles and rocks used to demarcate individual plots. But the crowd taunted them and refused to leave. Police opened fire with rubber bullets and threw tear-gas canisters.
Rose Mangathe, who queued for a piece of land, paid a heavy price. She was hit by a rubber bullet on her right leg that floored her next to a open tear-gas canister, forcing her to inhale its smoke.
With her teary eyes, a sore heel that left her unable to walk, Mangathe was still defiant. She did not regret taking part in the failed land grab.
“I have lived here for 12 years now and (for) 10 years I have been on the housing waiting list for a house,” she said. “I have children to raise in a one- room backyard shack.
“Do you think I was going to sit back when I heard there was allocation of land? I am not a member of EFF but support them on this. I don’t care where I get land from. I want to get a place to raise my children.”
Mangathe insisted that she was shot at by the police and Red Ants while trying to walk away from the crowds.
Several residents of Swaneville, however, accused the land grabbers of being “outsiders who came to our area to cause mayhem”.
A resident who would not give her name said: “These people come from as far as Tshepisong to cause trouble here. Youngsters were bussed in to make this whole thing look like it’s a major event by the residents of Swaneville.”
After the crowds dispersed and retreated into the township, a vigilante group in ANC T-shirts came wielding knobkerries, sjamboks and pangas to “administer their own justice” on those wearing EFF’s T-shirts or a beret.
The group – described by some locals as infamous for delivering mob justice in a place known as Mayibuye – said they came to “take back their streets”.
They chased the EFF members down the streets, assaulting some with sjamboks and hitting them with rocks.
Bonolo Thamae was one of those cornered by the mob aided by Red Ants. She was hit several times as she lay helplessly on the road while other residents cheered the mob.
She sustained several wounds and bruises and later had to be treated at the clinic.
EFF West Rand regional secretary Itani Mukwevho vowed that “no amount of violence” would stop them from taking vacant land and giving it to the people. “By April we will have taken all the land that is idle and unused.”
Local councillors’ houses were guarded by armed Red Ants after the crowd allegedly threatened to attack them.