South Africa: Gauteng Wants Blanket Court Interdict On Land Occupations

Human Settlements MEC briefs South African Human Rights Commission after protests in Alexandra

The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements is in the process of creating a policy to curb land occupations in the province, according to MEC Lebogang Maile. This was part of its strategy to lessen overcrowding in Alexandra and other townships.

Maile was speaking at the inquiry into Alexandra by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Public Protector's office on Tuesday. This week is the fourth and last sitting of the inquiry.

The inquiry follows a spate of protests in Alexandra in April. Its purpose is to consider some of the issues raised by the protesters, which included overcrowding, housing, water and sanitation.

The inquiry is also looking into allegations of corruption in the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP) - a project initially worth R1.3 billion, launched in 2001 to develop Alexandra. Maile said much more than R1.3 billion was spent on the project.

He said increasing land occupations were a huge problem in Alexandra and the rest of the province.

"We have not been able to, as government, prevent these [occupations] from happening and that's what we are working on effecting now," Maile told the panel. He said the department needed to start by identifying its properties and constantly monitoring them so that they are not occupied.

"We have already asked the Department of Human Settlements to approach the court and ask for a blanket court interdict because in most cases the police are saying they are not able to act because they require a court order," said Maile.

He said Alexandra was too congested. "For instance we have shebeens next to schools and churches. We don't have enough sport facilities in the area and the roads are too narrow," he said.

Bulk infrastructure, which included water, electricity and sewage systems, was initially designed in the 1980s to accommodate about 70,000 people, according to Maile. But when the assessment for the ARP was done in 2001, the population had increased to about 350,000 people.

Migration of about 230,000 people annually into Johannesburg also contributed to the overcrowding in Alexandra, he said. "There will never be enough money to cater for this migration ... Our public purse has shrunk and our economy is not doing well."

Maile said part of the strategy to lessen overcrowding in Alexandra was to relocate people and develop the areas they had been relocated from.

"But part of the problem now is that there is no plan to safeguard the land once the people have been relocated ... In no time that land is re-occupied so there has been a failure to effectively govern in that regard," he told the panel.

He said the City and provincial government were implementing more ways to make the City inclusive.

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