Rabie Ridge residents fight to erect shacks on private land they illegally occupied
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By Itumeleng Mafisa
Johannesburg - Police shot water cannons and fired stun grenades at hundreds of protesters in Rabie Ridge, north of Joburg on Sunday in a bid to disperse protesters who were illegally occupying private land.
The Star understands that the invaders have had running battles with the police, who have been trying to evict them since Friday last week.
It is still not clear to whom the 800 hectares of land belong, but the illegal settlers say they want to erect shacks there.
“Long live the people of Rabie Ridge squatter camp, long live! Phantsi with cowards! The land is now in our hands. We don't care who threatens us, it’s up to us whether we leave this land or we fight. Let’s sleep here today and tonight and tomorrow. To get a place like this is not child’s play. This place is worth a lot of money,” said an unidentified leader.
Early Sunday afternoon the leaders decided that the male squatters would continue to fight the removals and the women and children were sent home.
“Let’s come and stay here and call those people who must bring food here and we will defend our place,” said the leader.
Danny Bowes, one of the invaders, said the land had been vacant for years. “We were cutting stands when they stopped us. This land has been empty since 1986.”
Bowes said he saw nothing wrong with taking the land forcefully.
“If this place is private property, why is there no fence around it? I need land myself. I’m renting and I have a wife and two kids.”
Bowes said the last person to own land in his family was his grandfather, who had lost the land to apartheid laws.
“I’m not scared of the police. If I die, I die,” he said.
Another invader, Nombulelo Raphulani, said she was participating in the invasion because the land in question was becoming a crime hot spot where people were murdered and raped.
Provincial police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele said the police had been asked to escort the sheriff who was executing a court order to remove the invaders.
“The police are monitoring the situation,” he said.
No arrests have been made.