The Gauteng Provincial Government called for an urgent media briefing on Tuesday, April 21 in Johannesburg to address the rising incident of land invasions.
“These illegal invasions are well-coordinated and incited by connected criminal networks, taking advantage of the desperation within communities for decent housing amidst a growing backlog in the province,” said Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Maile.
According to the provincial statistics, over one million people are still living in informal settlements. Over 300 000 people come into Gauteng on an annual basis looking for better opportunities and a better life.
This mass migration does encourage people to find refuge in empty land pockets, mostly privately owned.
Responding to the recent mass evictions in Lawley, south of Johannesburg, where the Red Ants carried out demolitions.
Since that incident, there has been public outcry about the demolitions, which contradicts the national regulations, as pronounced by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. The Minister called for no evictions of any kind during the nationwide lockdown.
MEC Maile says they have engaged with the Mayor of Johannesburg, seeking clarity on the matter in light of the current national regulations on evictions during the lockdown.
“He (the Mayor) explained to us that the structures that were demolished were actually new structures that were not occupied by anyone,” said Maile.
According to Maile, the demolished structures were incomplete and were erected by opportunists who illegally occupied the area.
“These structures were demolished to prevent land invasions, however the criminal syndicates behind these illegal invasions spread false rumours and gave misleading information that there would be evictions in the area, in order to mobilise the community,” said the MEC.
Gauteng notes the increase in illegal land invasions since the announcement of the lockdown by President Ramaphosa.
In Johannesburg, there have been illegal land grabs in places such as: Alexandra, Ennerdale, Devland, Freedom Park and Lawley, Diepsloot and Roodepoort amongst other areas.
The Tshwane Metro had a growing two-week old informal settlement around Garankuwa and reports of invasions around Atteridgeville.
“We have been confronted with all these problems, even as we have taken a position across all spheres of government that we will not be evicting people throughout this lockdown.”
“As a result of these developments, we called a meeting with mayors of municipalities across the province, which re-affirmed the national position to put a moratorium on all evictions during the lockdown, but also took a principled stance that we will not tolerate any opportunistic illegality.
“As such, we will unleash the full might of the law against those who want to invade land illegally during this crisis,” explained the MEC.
In the meeting with the mayors, a comprehensive strategy was put in place to deal with illegal land invasions pro-actively.