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Hopeful dweller Gideon Tshitande.

Land grab inevitable – Desperate dwellers invade muni land on Matlala road

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The South African land crisis has manifested itself in yet another mushrooming of shacks on municipal land to the west of the city, the result of desperate dwellers seeking a new home following Polokwane Municipality’s eviction of scores of illegal occupants from Disteneng a fortnight ago.
Approached on the state of affairs, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Caucus Leader in Polokwane Council and EFF Capricorn Regional Chairperson Ronny Malema denied knowledge of the current settling of dwellers along the Matlala road. According to Malema one of its municipal councillors, Len Meyer was involved in the matter in his personal capacity. Malema, however, informed Polokwane Observer that EFF representatives on Polokwane Council intended to meet to finalise motions for debate next week based on what transpired at Disteneng.
Early Tuesday morning Meyer indicated that he was engaged in a related ensuing legal matter and would be available at a later interval. Numerous attempts to reach him at the time of going to press were unsuccessful.
This morning (Thursday) he confirmed that answering affidavits would be filed on 5 September, the return date for an interim court order in favour of the municipality to have the invaders evicted. According to him he had been summoned by the group of land occupants, who were informed of the High Court order after Tuesday’s lengthy proceedings, alleging that they were being threatened with the execution of the order and their shacks demolished.
This morning Polokwane Municipal spokesperson Matshidiso Mothapo said the municipality managed to obtain a court order to remove the invaders and that they would implement the order. The municipality had already started with the processes, but the date for removal he could not as yet confirm. “This is an unfortunate situation because the municipality has no option but to remove and the land grabbers continue to occupy the land despite the municipality warning that land occupation is illegal and that the municipality would take action.”
According to information the earlier eviction from Disteneng has taken a turn this week when people from Disteneng, Greenside, Extensions 44, 71, 76 and 78 have started descending on a portion of Extension 44 on the outskirts of town since the early hours of Monday, to allegedly illegally occupy the land.
Early Tuesday Mothapo confirmed that the land under attack was municipal property. The municipality was being advised on possible legal steps, but he couldn’t as yet reveal what the outcome would be, he informed Barry Viljoen in a follow-up response that morning. The previous day Mothapo said the municipality was aware of the land invasion and would take action to bring the situation under control.
“This is illegal occupation of land and the municipality strongly condemns such action where people invade other people’s property without consideration of the law. We strongly discourage members of the public to engage in such activities.”
At the time he said law enforcement was on the ground to ensure that the situation did not spiral out of control. “We understand that for economic reasons most people want to find themselves near the city in order to access opportunities. However, it is important that people are settled formally on fully serviced residential townships where they can enjoy dignified services like access to water, electricity and sanitation. The municipality is aware of housing challenges and has secured land for residential purposes. Polokwane residents who need housing are encouraged to register on the municipal housing database.”
Meanwhile cries for help from Disteneng are not dying down. From a source it was learnt that the lives of a around 100 people having remained at Disteneng have changed for the worse as they had been left without any means of protection after the demolition of their belongings when a court order granted in favour of Polokwane Municipality was effected two weeks back. They complained about former residents of the settlement sleeping out in the open at night, a situation Polokwane Municipality has come under fire for when considering the extreme weather conditions prevailing this time of year.
Another source resorting under the Disteneng dwellers told Polokwane Observer that they were living in Nkandla section of the erstwhile settlement in the hope that they would be considered for housing and the sought after sticker issued by the local municipality that would grant them access to a stand somewhere.
Twenty-four-year-old unemployed Gideon Tshitande is among an estimated 500 people relocating from Disteneng and elsewhere to the municipal property on the way to Ga-Matlala.
In an interview on the roadside on Tuesday morning he indicated his intention to put up a shack alongside that of others, mostly comprising of families. According to him the people settling there were planning to even construct a crèche on the property. He expressed the wish that Polokwane Municipality, which had been witnessed monitoring the situation, would address the shortage of housing as he added that scores of people were looking for a place to stay.
By then activity on the property was characterised by small gatherings of land grabbers, some mothers with babies on their backs.
As their attention was fixed on an immediate programme of action they disregarded the morning flurry transforming the landscape into a dust cloud as hordes of hurried but largely disinterested commuters made their way into the city.

Story & photos:
YOLANDE NEL
>>observer.yolande@gmail.com
RC Myburgh
>>rc.observer@gmail.com

The land grab process underway mid-Monday.

Yet another gathering of land grabbers in the morning cold characterises activity on the otherwise vacant land.

A not-so-tranquil scene on the piece of land that is in the process of being turned into a occupied terrain.