We warned people, says govt

The Gauteng human settlements department says while it did not sanction the demolition of houses in Evaton West on Wednesday, it has warned people against the illegal occupation of land or houses.

Videos of the demolitions trended on social media on Wednesday, with reports that the owners of the houses in Evaton West paid R22,000 to build on the land, which is allegedly owned by a private company.

The man they allegedly paid the money to claimed in an interview with Newzroom Afrika that he had been working in partnership with the government, but department spokesperson Fred Mokoko said they did not know him.

“If he was aligned with the human settlement department, we would know who is dealing with it, where he is sitting and at which office,” Mokoko told the news channel on Thursday evening.

He said the department intensified its campaign to deal with the unlawful occupation of land and RDP houses from 2019, and also warned people against people who would take their money and allocate them a plot they did not own.

“Some people were there before they [RDP houses] were even completed. But some of the cases are dealing with this illegality.

“When you buy a house, you don’t do it in a flimsy corner; the house is registered with the municipality and the bank. If it is a development, it will be linked with a bank. There are also private developments, where private people or banks will source land to pursue private developments or houses. Since there is an invasion of land, people have been going around claiming that government is selling land and if it was the case, we would be advertising where we’re selling the land and provide contact people. These people do not only work with cellphones. They also work with landlines and there will be a stationed office where people can walk into. Where you don’t find those things and you are told that land is R5,000, you should have questions of your own,” said Mokoko.

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“People of South Africa are very intelligent, you can take them for granted at your own peril. Some of the people have heard us speaking over and over, even when MEC Lebogang Maile went on TV and radio cautioning people not to occupy the land illegally or buy land illegally. We’re not going to blame people, but we’re also not going to deny the fact that we’ve come out on many occasions.”

Mokoko said some people took advantage of the pandemic and decided to occupy land illegally, knowing they would not get evicted.

“Even the private sector did not evict people, but now that the disaster management act has been relaxed, it is important for people to know that where they occupied land illegally, unfortunately they will be evicted.”

And some court evictions do not leave the government or private sector with the obligation to find alternative accommodation for the evicted people.

“This because once we state our case in the court of law and show proof that we warned the people about occupying the land illegally, the court processes will decide,” said Mokoko.

He said the department has a court order to evict and demolish houses in the same area, and it is not required to find alternative accommodation for the owners.

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