Rustenburg mayor quells resident's fears over illegal home occupations
The mayor of Rustenburg has weighed in on the alleged illegal occupation of houses belonging to the three mining companies in the city but says there is no “confirmation” of the alleged illegal occupations despite ongoing court cases.
Mpho Khunou said the situation had been brought to his attention and a meeting was held where all councillors were warned that they could be a part of the occupations.
“The Rustenburg Municipality does not support any illegal occupations. We are in talks with the mining houses,” said the mayor in a telephonic interview with Saturday Star this week.
Residents and the DA in the city, have blamed the ANC, EFF and taxi drivers of being behind the alleged occupations.
The mayor’s comments that there is no “confirmation” fly in the face of ongoing court action by all three mining companies, (Angloplats, Sibanye Stillwater and Impalaplats) to evict the people who have allegedly occupied 150 houses in various suburbs since December last year. Impalaplats successfully applied for eviction orders but AngloPlats and Sibanye said the national lockdown resulted in the courts not granting eviction orders.
Khunou’s comments also offer very little comfort to a young couple caught in the crossfire of the alleged illegal occupations. The couple, whose identities are withheld for safety concerns, said they bought their dream house at an auction from Sibanye for R350 000 in February. The sale of the property has been confirmed by Sibanye.
“We received a letter on March 6 saying that we can take occupation of the house but when we got there, other people were already living there. One of the people, an EFF councillor, told us he bought the house from the municipality,” said the man. According to the man and his fiancee, they were able to successfully apply for an intimidation order against the alleged illegal occupiers of their home, after they were threatened.
“We are not happy about this situation. We are still stuck,” said the man.
Sibanye’s Senior Vice President: Investor Relations, James Wellsted said: “The company has extensively engaged with the local authorities in this regard and continues to do what we can to address what is clearly a very concerning situation.”
The couple confirmed to Saturday Star that the court case, to evict the alleged illegal occupiers from their home, was postponed on December 4 and will continue on January 15. They also agreed with mining companies that the “mobs” behind the alleged illegal occupations are violent and show scant regard for the rule of law.
“They told us if we come there, blood will be shed. They locked the gates, and we could not get in. This is our first house. We are not feeling good. I fear for my safety,” said the man’s fiancee.
Several residents said there is also no willingness by the mining companies to resolve the issue, but the companies in turn say their efforts are hamstrung by the courts and a lack of assistance from the police.
Saturday Star tried to get comment from Rustenburg police and received no response.
The mining companies insist they are following due process and that the matter will only be resolved if all the different parties play along.
Wellsted said the different parties have their own agendas and that the brute force with which the alleged illegal occupations are taking place should not be tolerated.
“The occupations have now become very overt, and this is a major issue,” he said.
Angloplats spokesperson, Jana Marais said the company has beefed up security at its properties.
“Our properties are equipped with alarm systems and are serviced by private security firms, who work closely with our own security team and the SAPS. We also continuously work to keep the number of vacant properties in Rustenburg as low as possible.”
But Khunou insists the municipality is attending to the matter saying some of the houses are becoming crime hotspots.
“They are selling drugs from some of these houses, and in certain instances, people were killed,” he said.
According to Khunou, Rustenburg has a housing backlog of 100 000 and said the municipality has reached out to the mining companies to look at renting the vacant houses in an effort to address the housing shortage.
“The process is slow. We must all work together. The mining companies must come up with a formal offer. We will try once more in the new year,” said the mayor.
None of the three mining houses replied to media queries about Khunou’s comments about renting the vacant houses.
In the meantime, the mayor has assured residents that their safety is a concern for the municipality.
“We have ongoing patrols, and we are working with SAPS to keep an eye on things,” said Khunou.
Last week, Saturday Star reported that residents in the city cancelled their holiday plans to stay home and guard their properties in light on the ongoing alleged occupations.
No comment was received from the EFF that one of its councillors occupied a house that was paid for by a young couple, who now have to put their lives on hold.