Angry residents grab vacant sites

The land along Govan Mbeki Road was also occupied by those angry at the long wait for housing.

Two new informal settlements are set to be created in Crossroads and Philippi and those who have occupied the land are adamant that they are there to stay.

The City’s Anti-land Invasion Unit and police broke down the illegal structures built on the land along Govan Mbeki Road in Crossroads and in New Eisleben Road in Philippi last week.

The Crossroads property is owned by the City and the Philippi property is privately owned.

However, some of those who were moved are already back on the land.

They said their patience has worn thin while waiting for housing and they are tired of paying high rent. Authorities dispersed them and took their structures and building material on Thursday January 4. But that was not enough, and the hundreds of land invaders came back the following day.

A residents’ committee member at the New Eisleben Road site, Buntu Ludidi said that piece of land has been vacant for more than 25 years now.

He said a resolution was taken during a meeting held by residents from different areas on Monday January 1, to occupy the land.

“We are tired of renting and staying in people’s yards while there is vacant land unused here. We have now taken a decision to use it and now we are told the land belongs to a private company. All what we know is that this piece of land has not been used for years. The honest truth is we are not moving anywhere unless there is alternative land,” he said.

He said they would fight the eviction orders.

Mr Ludidi said if government wants the space, it will have to provide a solution.

“People cannot spend the rest of their lives renting. We need houses and a better place to stay in. We have identified this land and will stay on it,” he said.

Another defiant man at the Govan Mbeki site, who only identified himself as Mandla, said they are prepared to die for that piece of land.

He said rent in Crossroads had become unaffordable.

“R350 for somebody who is not working is way too much. We cannot afford that.

“We are here to stay. We do not care who owns the land. They have taken our structures but we are back here and we will remain here. We are prepared to die for this land. All we need is a place we can call home.”

They vowed that they would start erecting shacks as soon as the police left the area.

Luniko Paul from Zola informal settlement in Philippi was assured that his leaders would fight for them to stay on the land. He also vowed not to move.

“I still want to build here. I want a business right here. I will have a motor mechanic business,” he said.

Some roads in the vicinity were barricaded with large stones and signs of burnt tyres were evident in almost all the places.

The City’s mayoral committee member for area south, Eddie Andrews said two of the properties belong to the City, while others are privately owned. He said private property owners are also attending to the invasion.

Mr Andrews said the City will stand its ground on the matter.

“The City will protect its land and urges private owners to put measures in place to protect theirs too. We are aware that one of the owners (Oasis Crescent Property Company (PTY) LTD) obtained a court interdict last week, and at the same time opened a case of trespassing with the South African Police Services. They also demolished illegal structures with the assistance of SAPS,” he said.

He said the Anti-Land Invasion Unit protects City-owned land, and the City will obtain a court interdict should people start building structures on it.

He said protection of private land against illegal occupation is the responsibility of the property owner.