Homeless invade 'promised land'

Ntwaagae Seleka

Ntwaagae Seleka

Angry landless residents of Rammulotsi township in Viljoenskroon, Free State, have invaded municipal land which has been standing vacant for two years.

The move began as a trickle last Wednesday because the incessant rain made widespread invasions difficult.

The residents accused the Moqhaka local municipality of not doing enough to provide them with land and houses.

Residents told Sowetan that nothing would stop them from moving their shacks to "their promised land".

Ananias Ditlhakanyane, 55, said he had been homeless for a long time and could not wait any longer for the municipality to develop the land.

He said he had been squatting for a decade now and nothing fruitful had come from the council.

Ditlhakanyane said they had formed a committee in the area to monitor "site allocations".

"When it is election time, we are lied to with empty promises that we will be moved to a new and developed area with modern infrastructure," said Ditlhakanyane.

There are about five informal settlements around Rammulotsi township.

Joyce Moholo, 33, said she was tired of raising her three children in an informal settlement.

Moholo said that when it rained, water dripped onto her furniture. She is forced to seek shelter at her neighbours until the rain stops.

Moholo said: "We are moving in, no matter what. We are tired of the government's empty promises."

She vowed that nobody was going to stop them from occupying the land.

But the council called in the police who chased the residents off the land and patrolled the area to prevent the residents from re-occupying the land.

Municipality chief whip, Justice Mareka, said that the land had been bought by the council for R7,2million. He said 600ha of land was bought from a farmer in 2005. The land was "going to be developed and houses would be build to accommodate about 6000 residents".

Mareka said: "We have advised residents that the land has not been developed and is not presently suitable for occupation."

He said the council had appointed consultants to develop the land before the residents could officially occupy the area.

"We have alerted the police to the situation and no one is allowed to erect a shack on the land until proper development has taken place," said Mareka.

He did not indicate when the land would be ready for occupation.