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Wednesday Nov 14, 2012

Bid to find solution to Gauteng demolitions debacle

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is hoping to find a reasonable solution to the Lenasia demolitions, through its court application, acceptable to both the government and residents.

Ntombi Mqedlana and her children, Ntando, 2, and Sabelo, 10, outside her house in Lenasia Extension 13. The perimeter wall was demolished by the Gauteng Housing Department last Thursday, but she has refused to vacate her home.

Chantal Kisoon, Gauteng provincial manager for the SAHRC, said 88 families had been interviewed on Monday, and although this was a small number, it was a reasonable sample of what was happening on the ground in Lenasia Extension 13.

"The objective of our census was to get an idea of what people are saying. However, we only had three hours to do so. We are asking the court for time to conduct a proper, independent investigation because there are so many conflicting stories going around. We also want to monitor the process of evictions to ensure no human rights are violated," she said.

The commission was granted 24 hours on Monday by the Johannesburg High Court in which to conduct a "census" in the area. However, by yesterday morning when they appeared in court, only 88 people affected had been interviewed, so the court agreed to a further extension to noon today.

The deputy judge president was due to decide by noon today how to proceed.

The commission is not appealing against an eviction order granted by the high court in September last year or against another failed application for an interdict to stop evictions launched last Friday by residents.

SAHRC chief executive Kayman Ahmed said: "The province's right to act in accordance with its court order is not our main concern.

There are social economic issues at stake, including the status of vulnerable people such as the disabled and about 104 children who will be affected, some of whom are writing exams.

"These children cannot come home to find their homes demolished. We have to balance the rights of people and the legitimate expectations of the government," he said.

There has been widespread condemnation of the demolitions, including by the ANC Women's League, of which Premier Nomvula Mokonyane is an executive member.

But Mokonyane said at a press conference on Monday that the league's statement had been issued by people who were "misinformed".

"I have had meetings with them and explained the situation and the procedures we have gone through," she said.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA strongly condemned the "apartheid-style demolishing of houses in Lenasia by the ANC Gauteng government.

"The actions of Gauteng's Department of Housing to demolish houses and evict the poor of Lenasia Extension 13 is no different from the past malevolent evictions or forceful removals that were unleashed against the poor by the apartheid regime", the union said.

In a joint statement, the SACP, Cosatu and the SA National Civic Organisation said the government's goal was to "liquidate and remove the working-class and poor people out of the area of Lenasia to make way for further property development."

A mass protest was being arranged, the organisations said.

The Star

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