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Fri Oct 31 18:19:13 SAST 2014

Lenasia 'illegals' get a lifeline

POPPY LOUW | 10 December, 2012 00:01
TEMPORARY ABODE: Sipho Ngubeni in a shack next to his demolished house in Lenasia Ext 13, south of Johannesburg. The Johannesburg council demolished houses it claimed were built on municipal land that was sold illegally
Image by: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI

AS RESIDENTS of Lenasia whose houses were demolished by the Gauteng housing department sift through the rubble trying to get their lives back together, they are being offered a chance to buy back the land they have already paid for.

As part of the Lenasia intervention plan formulated by the special Lenasia intervention team, residents were offered the chance to repurchase their land.

Fifty houses in Lenasia were demolished last month because they had been built on land allegedly purchased illegally.

Isaac Mangena, spokesman for the SA Human Rights Commission, said the new transactions would be "subsidised".

"Beneficiaries will be identified and those who are in need will be subsidised," Mangena said.

He said Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale adopted the p lan last week without involving the commission, the Legal Resource Centre or residents.

"This caused nothing but unnecessary panic for residents. That was not what we had agreed on."

The plan also proposed the immediate disconnection of illegal water and electricity supplies after an audit.

Legal Resource Centre lawyer Thabiso Mbhense said unjustified disconnections would infringe residents' c onstitutional r ights.

"Our clients' electricity and water connections were done by City Power and Joburg Water. No one has been held responsible for the connections."

Sipho Ngubeni, one of the residents who lost his house, said he had been in pain and was confused since the demolition.

"Why did they have to demolish the houses first? So now I have to come back and build again?"

Ngubeni spent yesterday going through what remained of his nine-roomed house, looking for shoes.

"I'm no different from a hobo on the streets," he said, picking up dusty clothes from what had been his bedroom.

Wearing his wife's pink worn-out slippers, Ngubeni scratched his head as he recalled the demolition.

"They didn't give me a chance to remove my furniture. I have nothing to show for my work."

Now living in a one-room shack next to his demolished house, Ngubeni is trying to pick up the pieces of his life.

He has left his job as a supplier of building material to find piecework to provide for his sons, Nkanyezi, 4, and Musa, 2.

The children are living with their mother and grandmother in Soweto.

"Christmas is around the corner. I can't give my children anything, let alone a roof over their heads."

Neighbour Ntombi Mqedlana, who offered Ngubeni accommodation, is another resident who was duped into buying council land.

Government officials were unable to demolish her house after she locked herself and her two sons inside in a desperate attempt to save it from the bulldozer.

"I can't go back to how my life was. All I wanted was to give my children a home."

Mqedlana claims she paid a housing department official R25000 for the land on which her four-roomed house was built.

"I trusted him because he looked so decent and professional. I didn't think he was a fraudster," Mqedlana said.

She quit her job as a cleaner at a nearby shopping centre to guard her house.

Demolitions were brought to a halt on November 12 following an urgent application for an interdict by the Human Rights Commission in the Johannesburg High Court.

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