MyCiTi bears brunt of anger

Damage to the Omuramba bus station in Joe Slovo Park.

Land invaders have vowed to continue their fight to claim a piece of City-owned land in Joe Slovo, Milnerton, that has been the source of much tension in the area since a makeshift school was closed there.

The City’s anti-land invasion unit tore down 145 shacks at the old Sinenjongo High School site on Thursday last week, as hundreds of residents who had occupied land illegally for the past three weeks watched helplessly.

A day after the shacks were removed land invaders attacked two buses with stones and petrol bombed Omuramba and Phoenix MyCiTi stations.

For the fourth time in three months, the anti-land invasion unit has entered the township and hauled away truck loads of building materials.

Two months ago, people were cautioned to steer clear of the area after arsonists torched two halls (“Joe Slovo up in flames,” Tabletalk, June 28). Just a week before that, the principal’s office at Marconi Beam was gutted by a fire. There were suspicions that it was linked to the closure of the makeshift school a week before by the provincial education department (“School’s office torched,” Tabletalk, June 21).

Named Khozi Primary School after the street it was in, parents of the 420-odd pupils wanted the school open, saying they had been unable to register their children elsewhere. But their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Tshepo Motoboli is one of the residents who invaded the site shortly after the makeshift school was shut down.

He said he had watched his home being torn down four times but, as a backyarder, he had no choice but to invade the land again as they were living in overcrowded conditions.

Mr Motoboli is the spokesman of the Esiqalo Informal Residents Organisation, which was formed shortly after the unregistered school was closed.

“We are a group of backyard dwellers who have deviated from different political parties and merged for a common goal and that is to promote human dignity and create a healthy and cohesive community within Joe Slovo,” he said.

They would not rest, he vowed, until they had been “granted the vacant land”.

The site was “causing conflict” in the community because some wanted a school to be built there while others wanted houses.

“Nothing in this community is for the people’s benefit. It is only for the individual’s benefit. Khulunathi Hall did not serve the community’s needs as it was rented out to generate income for the so-called leaders in the community,” he said, referring to one of the torched halls.

“Even the primary school that was dismantled was not even approved by the Department of Education, but parents were commanded to pay school fees,” he said.

SuzetteLittle, mayoral committee member for area north, said although the City could“empathise with the plight of our residents” it could not permit an illegal land invasion.

Last week’s removals had been in line with a court order the City had obtained to stop people invading the land, she said.

“The Sheriff of the Court placed visible notice boards on the site and addressed the community directly when the City applied for the interdict to protect the land in question.

“It should be noted that there is an ongoing community consultation process under way with regard to the future use of this land,” said Ms Little.

Invaded land, she said, posed health, fire and flood risks and made the provision of basic and emergency services almost impossible in some cases.

“We urge the community to assist us in creating conditions that are conducive to service delivery, so that we are able to fast-track the plans and service delivery we have for this area.

“The City must reiterate that we condemn land invasions and the incitement to invade City, state or privately-owned land in the strongest possible terms.

“Nobody is allowed to occupy or invade land without permission or consent of the owner.

“Our residents know which channels to follow, and we are always open to engagement, but we cannot support illegal actions. It will not improve the lives of our vulnerable residents,” she said.

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