City of Joburg to launch task team to probe illegal land invasions

25 September 2017 - 11:33 By Timeslive
City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.
City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.
Image: Sunday Times

City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has announced that he is to establish an independent task team to investigate allegations of political interference behind recent illegal land invasions in the city.

At the same time‚ he announced that all pending eviction orders would be suspended unless approved by him. The announcement follows violent clashes between residents and the Red Ants in Unaville‚ Lenasia‚ on Friday which resulted in two deaths‚ after an illegal invasion of unoccupied land in the area.

Mashaba said that a court order was obtained on July 27 for the demolition of unoccupied illegal structures in Unaville which the Sheriff of the Court had attempted to enforce last week.

“Sadly‚ in executing the order‚ a number of persons were harmed or injured through the alleged action taken by the Red Ants‚ who were contracted by the Sheriff.

“It is reported that two persons also lost their lives on the day. The circumstances around these unfortunate deaths are currently the subject of an investigation by the South African Police Services‚” he said.

Mashaba added that the task team would be established under former Gauteng Hawks head General Shadrack Sibiya in the Group Forensic Investigation Department‚ which he said was independent of both his office and the office of the City Manager.

“This will give the task team the independence to conduct a full investigation‚” Mashaba said.

He added: “The task team will also seek to shed further light on the circumstances surrounding the passing of the two residents and allegations behind the use of force during the execution of the court order.

“I have instructed the City’s new Head of Group Legal‚ Mr Isaac Mogashoa‚ to advise on the complete terms of reference for this task team as a matter of urgency. The City will announce these terms of reference within the next 48 hours. “I have also instructed that the city suspend any and all pending eviction orders unless approved by myself.” Mashaba added that for some time now‚ the area of Region G had been a site of political unrest.

“Indeed‚ I have been prevented from holding public meetings in the area on two occasions‚ denying residents the opportunity to engage with the City.” As the new administration‚ the City had recently passed a budget for aggressively pursuing the provision of adequate housing‚ including‚ diversifying the ways it delivered housing to the poor‚ he said.

“Revitalising the inner city‚ working together with the private sector‚ has been made a priority in order to begin addressing the massive housing backlog within Johannesburg.

“We have also allocated R66 million towards our shift to progressively focus on the Site and Service housing development approach. This involves the provision of fully serviced plots of land‚ onto which beneficiaries can be settled.

“As part of this‚ land in Unaville‚ which was subject to the recent court order‚ Lawly and Ennerdale will serve as primary pilot sites for this project; a first for the City of Joburg.”

With a housing backlog of over 300‚000 units‚ the need for adequate housing is desperate; particularly for those who have waited for adequate housing since 1994‚ Mashaba said. “The city also continues to work within the community to provide possible assistance to those affected by Friday’s action. “As a City‚ we remain committed to building a Johannesburg where affordable housing is available for all‚” Mashaba added.