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Tuesday Nov 20, 2012

Residents, cops clash as Lenasia property demolitions continue

One Lenasia resident held a gun wrapped in a towel and threatened to use it should they try to demolish his house.

Another resident asked him to hand it over, saying he would use it on the housing officials.

"I will die and I will kill before they break my house down," he said, threatening to use the gun on himself afterwards.

An angry home owner shouts an a truck operator who bulldozed her wall.

The Gauteng housing department moved early yesterday morning into the area in full force with the SAPS, Nyalas, private security and housing officials to demolish about 35 incomplete structures.

The department has vowed to continue demolishing illegal structures, saying they are mushrooming at an alarming rate and cannot be allowed to continue.

Gauteng housing department spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa said despite numerous warnings, residents were continuing to buy land, knowing it was illegal, and were building despite instructions to stop.

Even after the demolitions started, residents continued to buy land, knowing it was illegal. "They are told both by the bogus sellers and their residents' committees, that once the houses are built and occupied, they will not be demolished. Now, they know we are coming, they are building faster and putting in furniture and curtains pretending that the house is occupied," he said.

Motlhaolwa said it was impossible for them not to know that buying a huge piece of land for R15 000 could not be legitimate.

"They are aiding and abetting criminals by buying these properties, and as long as they do so, these syndicates will not stop," he said.

Yesterday, The Star witnessed as several residents were seen moving odd bits of furniture into partially built houses.

They have also been told to quickly build small, one or two-room houses, which are quick to build, and move in, and they could later build proper houses.

Yesterday, there was a stand-off between the chairman of the Concerned Residents' Association, Lazarus Baloyi, which is opposing the demolitions, and the police.

When he heard the department was about to demolish his Tuscan-style house, he placed a large number of residents in the house and challenged police to shoot them.

The Lenasia residents and the SA Human Rights Commission are to lodge an appeal against a Johannesburg High Court order issued in September last year, giving the Gauteng housing department permission to demolish illegally built houses.

Lenasia Concerned Residents' Association spokesman Sulliman Barends said owners had withdrawn their appeal last year when the provincial government agreed to halt demolitions.

"But they have gone back on their word, so we will lodge our papers today," he said.

And, the rights commission is likely to join them and assist in their appeal.

Once the demolitions started, residents called out the commissioners, who inspected the area.

On Friday, the high court gave the commission until this Friday to show how human rights were being abused by the demolitions.

Last week, the province demolished about 50 unoccupied houses.

The province undertook in court not to proceed with the demolitions in Lenasia extension 13, but started yesterday in Lenasia South extension 4.

Officials have indicated that they will eventually move to Lawley as well where a number of properties have been invaded.

Commission spokesman Isaacs Mangena said staff had conducted a field visit to ascertain the method of demolition and whether or not any human rights were violated.

"We are worried about the new demolitions. We will be investigating whether we can get the court order overturned," he said.

On the ground, there was confusion and uncertainty as to whether or not the demolitions would continue this morning, or if they would start in nearby Lawley, where a number of properties were also targeted for demolition.

The Star

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