MEC Lebogang Maile blames 'crazy' Herman Mashaba for land invasions
Gauteng human settlements, co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Lebogang Maile has blamed “crazy” former Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba for allowing illegal land invasions to get out of control in the south of Johannesburg.
Maile on Tuesday held a press briefing after the demolition of structures built on invaded land in Lawley by the Red Ants at the instruction of the city of Johannesburg.
According to him, the demolished houses were “incomplete, new and unoccupied” and the protests that ensued in Lawley at the weekend in response to the demolitions were instigated by a “criminal syndicate” of individuals illegally selling vacant land.
Maile said the illegal land invasions in the south had “gone out of control” mainly because Mashaba, during his tenure as mayor from 2016 until 2019, did not do anything to prevent them.
He said the government would not allow illegal land invasions “in the name of lockdown”, adding that it would act on anyone setting up illegal housing structures and hoping to get away with it because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Maile, however, stressed that no evictions would be carried out against people who occupied land, even illegally, before the lockdown, as per regulations.
“That part of Johannesburg, the south, the whole area since 2016 has gone out of control,” said Maile. “You will remember the Lenasia situation, it is not for the first time but these are recurring issues and unfortunately because we had a city at the time which had a crazy mayor [Mashaba] who was not interested in people's interests but was just obsessed with himself and PR.
“He did not deal with these issues and that is why they intensified during his term. From 2016 we have seen the upsurge of illegal informal settlements, especially in the south of Johannesburg.”
Maile said there had been a ceasefire on evictions during the lockdown but the government would act on court orders to evict once the lockdown was lifted.
The MEC said illegal land occupation was “compromising and undermining” government planning and budget allocation and worsening the backlog of those awaiting housing from the state.
In Gauteng, there are already more than 1.2-million people on the housing waiting list.
Said Maile: “The housing backlog is 1.2-million and it is growing rapidly owing to in-migration with 300,000 people coming into the province yearly looking for better opportunities and a better life.
“Given the volatile situation in Lawley where the Red Ants carried out demolitions last Thursday, there has been a public outcry about the demolitions in lieu of the lockdown regulations as pronounced by minister Lindiwe Sisulu that no evictions and demolitions of illegal structures will occur during this lockdown.”
Maile said investigation into the Lawley matter revealed that criminal syndicates were behind the backlash to the demolitions.
To this end, a case with the police had been opened to crack down and prevent the illegal invasions spreading like wildfire, taking advantage of lockdown regulations on evictions.
“The structures that were demolished in Lawley were new structures that were not occupied by anyone,” he said.
“Here we are dealing with very organised, dangerous, heartless and sophisticated criminals and they are able to manipulate and use our people.
“No-one is going to going to be evicted but illegal land invasion must be tackled immediately and decisively. No-one is allowed to occupy land illegally in the name of lockdown and Covid-19.”