Land battle heads for the courts

Michael Sakuneka

Michael Sakuneka

A legal battle is looming between the Greater Tzaneen municipality and about 180 squatters at an informal settlement near the Talana hostel.

The confrontation is over what the municipality refers to as unlawful occupation of land reserved for development.

The land is earmarked for the extension of the Talana hostel to enable it to accommodate more people.

This includes those working in town or hawkers operating from Tzaneen's central business district.

Spokesman for the squatters, Tinny Mashai said efforts to get help from the municipality since their shacks burnt down about three month ago had failed.

She said all meetings held with municipal officials were fruitless.

Initially the squatters were given 10 days to vacate the area. But Mashai said they could not move because they had not been offered alternative accommodation.

"We are arranging legal representation for next week's case on October 3, when the municipality goes to court."

But head of the municipality's housing unit, Handswell Phakula said the squatters had violated the Unlawful Occupation of Land Act and should leave the area unconditionally.