Businesses and residents who have illegally occupied government land and properties in the Eastern Cape have until the end of next month to come clean to authorities or they will face the might of the law, Roads and Public works MEC Thandiswa Marawu has warned.
She said this formed part of the national government’s Operation Bring Back, which is aimed at cracking down on illegal occupation or invasion of state-owned properties.
Land invasion has for years been a thorny issue and in some instances development has stalled because of residents refusing to vacate land.
Marawu was speaking during the second day of the Taking Parliament and Legislature to the People programme at the Abbotsford Christian Centre in East London this week.
She singled out Bhongweni near the East London Airport as an area where people had built on government land.
The land that was invaded had been earmarked for airport extensions, she said. The houses, some of them double storey mansions, started popping up in the area about four years ago and some are still being built, despite the Department of Public Works having put up signs warning against the illegal invasion and threatening legal action.
Some of the land and government properties illegally invaded are in Hamburg, Cintsa, Dimbaza and Dikidikana in King William’s Town and former ministerial gated residential area Enkululekweni in Mthatha.
Marawu said in the last two weeks they had visited Reest on and seen the houses that had been illegally occupied.
After the visit, she said, her department had received scores of messages from those who had illegally occupied the properties, saying that they had seen that the houses were being vandalised, so they had put doors in and moved in.
The MEC said because they had no capacity to keep and maintain all the houses, they would officially hand them to residents who were honest enough to report that they had invaded them.