'We are not going anywhere, Olievenhoutbosch is our home' - illegal land occupiers
13 March 2018
Johannesburg - "Tell the police, government and the people here, we are not going anywhere. This is our land and we are here to stay."
Land invaders in Olievenhoutbosch in Midrand were adamant on Monday afternoon that they would not be forcibly removed by the government or the police.
People had made their way into the area, along the R55 and west toward Diepsloot and into Mnandi, early on Friday morning, March 9. By Saturday afternoon, they had occupied large tracts of land; each piece was marked with red-and-white barrier tape.
Police and residents had removed markers in certain areas on Monday.
On Monday afternoon, Jack Kgosana had allocated to himself a piece of ground, measuring 15m by 25m.
The 39-year-old said the land had been vacant for more than 20 years and no one occupied it.
Kgosana said they have pleaded with the government to give them the land.
"We don't want government to deny us this piece of land because we have nowhere else to go. If I have a stand of my own, I can at least have a home of my own," he said.
He plans to live there with his family for the rest of his life.
Michael Chauke, 44, lives in a back room in one of the extensions in Olievenhoutbosch.
He lost his job at a courier company in December.
"It is difficult to provide for the family because there is no income now."
Chauke said they were not fighting with the government.
"If you can give us this piece of land, because in [the] township, we live like cockroaches. You put them in power, they are enjoying it and step on you."
"God has brought us here to enjoy life. We are all equals in the eyes of God."
A legal land owner in the area, Marianna Stais, received a call from her brother on Saturday, saying she should return home because there were land invasions.
"It was already overrun with people, putting in stakes and chopping down trees. They already had their own cornering of tape and everything was in full swing," she said.
Safety was a big concern for Stais.
"I have huge empathy for people who are homeless. I need to feel safe in my own home and, if it were total informal housing and shacks, I do believe there would be an increased risk of crime.
She has called on the government to act by evacuating all land invaders and to restoring peace to the area.
AfriForum's head of community safety Ian Cameron has urged legal land owners to open trespassing cases at local police stations.
"The biggest concern about this issue is that it is infringing on legal land owners' rights to be able to own something," he said.
Cameron said statements by EFF leader Julius Malema and President Cyril Ramaphosa almost led to "anarchistic behaviour" over the weekend.
He said the ANC's adoption of the motion to expropriate land without compensation was one of the driving forces behind the illegal actions. "The SAPS' poor handling of the land grabs in Johannesburg bears witness to a police service that is unable to protect legal property owners.
"We have to ask ourselves whether the political will exists to truly protect legal property owners in South Africa," he said.
Chairperson of the EFF in ward 106 in the area, Peter Seolela, said residents started to allocate land to themselves in December.
Seolela said the only way for the government to take them seriously, was if they occupied every single open piece of land.
"We cannot go and close the roads and vandalise everything we see. The only thing that we will do is occupy any open land. They take us for a fool [sic]," Seolela said.
According to Seolela, the only way to respond to a "stubborn government" was to act.
"We are open for them to come on board and engage us. Government can't say no and go back on their word," Seolela said.
Seolela said the legal land owners in the area were their "brothers and sisters" and added that they were not fighting with them.
"They shouldn't run to the police stations because the police can't provide solutions. Solutions lie with the government," he said.