WATCH | 'I spent my life savings on this house' - Lenasia homeowner

With even relatives now reluctant to visit them, Lenasia South homeowners want to start anew somewhere else after being encircled by land invaders.

Khetija Reynders sits outside her three-bedroom house with two of her dogs baking in the winter sun. The kitchen and living areas of the house are dark. Some of the ceiling boards in the front part of the house are broken.

Reynders has been living in her house in Univille for more than 28 years. She first noticed shacks in the area around 2017. Now her house is surrounded by thousands of them.

The Univille house of Khetija Reynders is surrounded by thousands of shacks.
The Univille house of Khetija Reynders is surrounded by thousands of shacks.
Image: Emile Bosch

The dusty roads are lined with piles of rubbish and many residents are without electricity after being disconnected by the city due to payment arrears. . 

"They [land invaders] came to approach me back in 2017. A guy had a pile of documents with all the people who did not have title deeds. He showed me and told me that they are taking half of the land.

"They just came in and started building."

"I spent all my life savings in this house. No government maintained my house. Now they [land invaders] build on our sewerage drains."

Reynders says she is unable to fix her roof because of a lack of money.

"The government must pay us out so that we can move, because I am poorer by the day," she said.  

Khetija Reynders has been living in her house in Univille for more than 28 years. She first noticed shacks in the area around 2017.
Khetija Reynders has been living in her house in Univille for more than 28 years. She first noticed shacks in the area around 2017.
Image: Emile Bosch

She recalled the "much happier moments" before land invaders took over.

"I had a shop and used to sell beers and help the community with funerals and feed the poor, but now I can't do it anymore. I gave my shop to a Bangladeshi man.

"I am very scared and living in fear."

A second resident, who asked not to be named for fear for being attacked, told SowetanLIVE sister publication TimesLIVE her house was surrounded by almost 500 shacks.

"I have been living in this area for about 36 years and I am unhappy living here with all the land invasions.

"When I woke up one morning, I had a shock to see there were shacks around my yard. I am in the centre of everyone.

"Everything around us is just messed up. I am tired of living here, because I have family in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, but no one comes to visit me anymore because of the land invasions.

"My own son is even scared to come visit me because he is scared of being hijacked. I have to go out to visit them, which is costing me from my own pocket."

The woman said she was attacked and robbed in the area about four months ago. The robbers made off with her personal valuables.

Outside a grey painted house belonging to another resident, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, is a green mobile toilet. She has been living in the house for about 23 years.

"The land invaders started connecting to our electric poles, now we can't even pump water anymore. I've got children who are attending schools and it is so difficult for them to do their school work because we are always in the dark.

"When I was busy in the house one morning, people were busy putting up shacks. In three or four days, half of the area was full of shacks. Every day they are putting up shacks here.

"I am hoping the government can help us get out of here."

Local estate agent Paresh Bhika told TimesLIVE that the original value of houses in the area had dropped by 40%-60%.

"We lost three sales because people are now trying to sell their properties and people who are potential buyers are not buying in that area because of what is happening in the surrounding parts.

He said an average house in Lenasia South goes for R600,000-R700,000.

Bhika said many residents in the area are struggling to sell their homes.

"As soon as these squatter camps come up, the property values automatically decrease because people are not prepared to buy in the area."

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