12 November 2012

South Africa: The Gauteng Provincial Government's Statement On the Demolition of Illegally-Built Houses in Lenasia South

Photo: Nombulelo Damba/WCN
A destroyed house (file photo): The site of families fighting for their homes has touched a chord for many South Africans.

press release

The Gauteng Department of Local Government and Housing appointed George Fivaz to investigate irregularities in the provision of houses in the province. Fivaz tabled his report to the department in 2002. The report had various recommendations and all these land parcels in Lenasia are part of the report and we are now implementing the recommendations.

The department is the custodian of land in the province and these properties are managed in terms of the Gauteng Land Administration Act 11 of 1996 and its amendment of 2002. The disposal of any land in the province is done through the Gauteng Land Disposal policy of 2008.

Part of the challenges of managing the land is the high rate of land invasion, whereby people illegally occupy land and build structures on it be they temporary or permanent. Through the departmental inspectors some invasions are averted while some are not, as they occur overnight and on weekends while inspection staff is off duty.

Investigations into the illegal sale of land in the Johannesburg South area, including Lenasia, Ennerdale and Lawley, were first conducted by the department as far back as 2006.

Illegal sale of land occurred and we instituted an investigation. A forensic investigation was undertaken immediately to establish all the facts. The report was submitted to the Head of the department for consideration and implementation in early 2010.

Consultation processes with all affected parties occurred. This was to ensure proper way of dealing with the matter.

The Report Findings

The report confirmed that there was an illegal sale of land.

Different transactions and costs were paid for various pieces of land and stands.

Documents that were acquired illegally, including title deeds and deeds of sale that were concluded.

Unknown people were in a process of developing departmental vacant stands which are situated amongst developed stands.

Constructions which were stopped were continuing despite interventions by the department.

Municipal services were illegally connected.

Where developments were taking place, the stands were being fenced.

Further investigations by the department also revealed that stands were illegally sold or occupied and occupants were already constructing houses.

In Lenasia, at the time, our investigations revealed that 678 stands were illegally occupied.

In Ennerdale and Lawley, an estimated number of 1000 stands were affected.

This figure has been rising due to the continuation of illegal construction of houses, despite all our actions to stop the process.

Arrests

Ten cases were investigated by the Hawks, seven suspects were arrested, five cases are on trial, and two withdrawn pending further investigations.

In February 2007, several developers were implicated for the illegal sale of land. The implicated include one Richard Zikhali and his wife Hlengiwe Ximba as well as Michael Madogola. Ximba has since entered into a plea bargain with the state and was sentenced to six-year imprisonment with a three-year suspended sentence.

Zikhali and Madogola will be going on trial during the first week of December 2012.

Hilda Sikhute is out on bail and is attending trial.

Muziwamandla Poto, also known as Radebe in the area, and Elizabeth Masinya are out on bail.

One of the primary suspects has been cited in all these illegal activities and a case of fraud was opened against Durban Baloyi, who is a former developer for the department in December 2010. He was arrested and released on bail. The case was withdrawn in court to allow the Hawks to complete the investigations.

Sifiso Handsome Ditau, an official from the City of Johannesburg, is out on bail and a disciplinary case in underway.

We are also pursuing three other cases.

We call upon the community to co-operate with us in order to make more arrests.

Court Processes

The department has already exhausted the legal process;

In September 2010, there was an interim court order prohibiting the Department from evicting and demolishing the illegal properties in Lenasia Ext 13 and Lenasia South Ext 4 and Ennerdale;

The applicants were also interdicted from further erecting and constructing structures on the properties belonging to the Department until a final Order is issued;

While the Department adhered to the Interim Order, the applicants continued to erect structures and invade government-owned stands, ignoring the legal process;

The Department opened several cases of contempt of court against the illegal occupiers in December 2010;

13 builders were arrested on site for violating the interim court order.

Mediation Process

In March 2011, the court also ordered that the matter be referred for mediation for the illegal occupiers to explain how they acquired the properties;

Of the 164 illegal occupants, only 11 illegal occupiers responded, and only three illegal occupants were found to have applied to be on the Demand Database (Housing Waiting List) of the Department;

Mediation failed mainly because the illegal occupiers did not co-operate.

The Court Order

After the failure of mediation, the Department approached the Court to seek a Final Order;

Finally, on 29 September 2011, the Department was granted an Order by the South Gauteng High Court.

The Order stated that:

Those applicants whose names appear on Annexure MM2 to the notice of the motion are hereby ordered to vacate those stands identified next to their names on Annexure MM2.

Those applicants who have erected structures on their stands are ordered to remove or demolish same within 30 days of service of this Order.

In the event of failure to remove or demolish within the time period the respondents shall have the right to do so.

This Order affected the 163 illegal occupants.

The Order did not provide for the department to provide alternative accommodation given the financial status of the illegal occupants.

It is also clear that the illegal occupants were ordered to remove or demolish their structures within 30 days, failing which, the Department had the right to remove or demolish those structures.

Consultation Process - Public and Political Processes

Throughout the entire process the Department convened a number of meetings with the affected parties in order to find a solution to the matter;

On 13 November 2009 consultation process took place through the PCO Office which included the former MEC Lekgoro and Ward Councillors;

29 May 2012 People Against Illegal Land Invasion, a group representing legal property owners in Lenasia, marched to the Office of the Premier to table a memorandum that demanded firm action from the government to have the illegal occupiers evicted;

Other consultations also were also convened with all the critical stakeholders that are based at the Lenasia PCO Office.

Consultation Process - Public and Political Processes

Throughout the entire process the Department convened a number of meetings with the affected parties in order to find a solution to the matter;

On 13 November 2009 consultation process took place through the PCO Office which included the former MEC Lekgoro and Ward Councillors;

29 May 2012 People Against Illegal Land Invasion, a group representing legal property owners in Lenasia, marched to the Office of the Premier to table a memorandum that demanded firm action from the government to have the illegal occupiers evicted;

Other consultations also were also convened with all the critical stakeholders that are based at the Lenasia PCO Office.

Latest Developments

On 9 November 2012, the illegal occupants approached the Gauteng South High Court for an urgent court interdict to stop the Department from continuing with the demolition process. The application was dismissed with costs. Therefore the court order still stands;

Official demolitions started last week Thursday and to date the department has demolished 51 structures;

All the 113 structures that are earmarked for demolition are currently not occupied by any household or family.

Our Position

Dealing with acts of corruption and those that are found to be in collusion with syndicates, including those who are building illegal structures.

Acting for the most vulnerable and working in the spirit of Human Rights and now we want to protect them.

Any private development will be supported by government using various government subsidy instruments, including people that are earning between R3 500 - R15 000.

This is not the only case we are dealing with in Gauteng. We urge people to co-operate and work with government to provide the necessary services such as housing to affected communities;

One of the lessons learnt is that when we have to act on issues of corruption it leads to a process where we have people being casualties and this will not deter us in dealing with any criminal elements that are involved in illegal sale of government land.

In terms of various acts and prescripts, there are legal documents that people should have in their procession.

The court order confirmed our position as the Gauteng Government that we will not tolerate land invasions from any sector of society, regardless of the economic status of the people involved.

We further advise the communities to take a lesson from this judgment and be aware that there are fraudsters who are posing as Department's agents and selling land at very cheap prices to unsuspecting members of the public. If land is being sold to you, first verify ownership of the property with the Registrar of Deeds before paying or occupying the land.

The department is responsible for managing and developing Gauteng's vacant land portfolio for the creation of human settlements. A total of 3 400 land parcels have been analysed and audited on the Departmental Land Register. A total of 11 cases of land invasions were reported and action taken against those responsible. A total of 964 were randomly inspected for safeguarding purposes.

In the current financial year, the Department has set aside R150 million to acquire land parcels to benefit eight housing projects on the land that is well located for development of human settlements. The driving consideration when we acquire such parcels of land is that they must be closer to economic opportunities where people can easily have access to jobs.

Our people should resist the temptation of illegally occupying land. The truth is that, we are going to evict you.

The illegal occupation of land is a crime that affects the taxpayers directly. On average our Department spends R200 to R8 000 per month for an illegally acquired stand. The money is paid to the municipality, and this excludes illegal connection, costs of water and electricity. Thus the Department spends more than R300 000 per annum on these illegal properties.

Issued by: Gauteng Provincial Government

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