Roland Mpofu and Nokwanda Ncwane
Johannesburg – Criminal syndicates are taking advantage of the moratorium on evictions during the lockdown and illegally selling vacant land. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of informal settlements that have sprouted up in Gauteng in the past few months since the outbreak of Covid-19.
The illegal sale and occupation of land has prompted Joburg City Mayor’s Committee (MMC) member for human settlements, Mlungisi Mabaso, to issue a warning that those desperate for land should beware of unscrupulous unions who are taking advantage of their need for a place to stay.
“There are people who are really looking for places to stay and there are people who have been affected by Covid and who have no source of income. So they can’t afford to pay rent and they end up going to informal settlements to find places to settle down and then there are criminals selling these stalls.
“And it’s a very organized union. Even today (last Wednesday) I learned that there were people selling stalls in Slovo Park for R1,000 to R1,500. So you know they identify a vacant lot and then they start selling. stands. They assign you the size of the booth based on the money you paid them.
Mabaso, an adviser to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), said the criminals rounded up people who paid on a particular day to assign them booths.
“From our side, we will consider it an invasion, when people bought these stands. So you can only find out that when we send the JMPD (Johannesburg Metro Police Department) to go and respond in case of an invasion, people will say, “but we bought these stands,” ”Mabaso said, explaining the modus operandi being used by land grabbers.
“For example, in Lawley, people from Tembisa and Ivory Park were brought in.
“Now the question is, if you are really looking for a place to stay, are you going to drive from region A and go through all that vacant land and go to region G?” In all of these areas there are vacant plots of land, so it tells you that there is this organized union of people going everywhere taking advantage of our people because they know they are looking for places to stay ” , he said.
Asked what the city was doing to stem the land invasions, Mabaso said: “We referred the case to GFIS (Group Forensic and Investigation Service). So the one in Slovo Park, I already asked one of our managers to go and open a case with the police.
When asked about allegations by political parties that had walk-in offices in informal settlements, like Kokotela in the Lawley 2 extension, who are plotting plots of land asking land applicants for a ‘contribution of something’ (the booth selling prices start from R3,000 to R5,000), Mabaso said, “Where I’m sitting I don’t think the EFF leadership in the province or the national leadership will accept such nonsense. It is even worse with the DA because it does not even support expropriation without compensation. They will never accept such garbage.
“This is the information we need to have when presenting it to the police.”
However, Mabaso admitted that the CoJ, which has a housing backlog of 468,000 units, does not have a policy in place to provide people with serviced stalls where they can build their own homes. The City will adopt such a policy in the coming weeks, he said.
Some of the residents who bought the booths admitted that they knew it was an illegal purchase.
Zanele van Wyk, who has lived in Driziek (Orange Farm) since 2018, said: “When we got here we were told it was just temporary, but we have now built houses and that is the reason for which I think development is slow in the region.
“The officials don’t set foot here. We are alone, because even the toilets that our ward counselor gave us are not cleaned thoroughly. We go weeks without water because the tanks are empty. There are a lot of things we are unhappy with. “
Van Wyk, who bought his stand for R3 500, said occupants had to organize PikItUp themselves. There were no ambulances, the fire and rescue teams, as well as the police, could not even navigate the area when they called them for help because there was no street names.
Paul Mohale, a member of the street committee who claimed to be the representative of the Mountain View Extension community in Marikana (south of Joburg), said: “The Covid19 pandemic has disrupted the government’s plans for the delivery of services in our area. We asked Mabaso to at least provide us with water tanks, electricity and other basic services and he promised to come.
He added that the area was registered and that they were there legally.
Jabu Botman, chairman of DZK 10, also known as Tjovitjo (near Orange Farm), said he heard that the land was going to be sold to a private owner and they decided to take it for themselves.
There are over 4,500 people living in Tjovitjo.
Botman also denied that any plots were sold, although some locals claimed they paid for the stalls.