Alex Matlala

Alex Matlala

Pandemonium broke loose at the Blouberg municipality in Limpopo yesterday when angry villagers blocked the gates in protest against forced removals.

Work at the council came to a standstill when villagers refused council officials entry to the premises.

The villagers from Desmond Park near Senwabarwana accused the municipality of acting at a snail's pace in rebuilding the 65 shacks it had demolished in November last year.

The villagers' shacks were demolished by the municipality, which accused residents of living on the land illegally.

The demolition followed a six- month standoff between residents and the municipality over the disputed land.

The municipality, accompanied by police, razed the shacks on November 7 last year, leaving residents homeless.

The residents' furniture, such as wardrobes, kitchen units, wall units, television sets and music systems, were badly damaged by rain sice they were left in the open.

The frustrated residents staged protest marches against the municipality but all in vain.

The incident happened barely two years after about 100 shacks were demolished in the same area by the municipality.

The damage caused during the forced removal was estimated at R98 million.

The residents took the municipality to court.

The municipality was ordered by the Pretoria high court to rebuild the shacks within 14 working days.

"The last day for the municipality to rebuild the shacks was Friday last week," said Sani Mannya, regional secretary for the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco).

"Our people are homeless. We need our shacks to be rebuilt or there will be chaos."

Mannya said residents were planning to stage a sit-in for the whole week if the council does not give effect to the court order.

Municipal manager Ike Makhura confirmed that residents made work difficult for municipal employees.

He said they blocked the gates and refused employees entry.

Makhura declined to comment on reasons why the council had not as yet rebuilt the shacks as ordered by the high court.