Land grabbers this time confident they are home to stay

19 December 2019 - 11:37
By Penwell Dlamini
Asiphe Tofu wants to build a house on her stand at Anglers, Lenasia South.
Asiphe Tofu wants to build a house on her stand at Anglers, Lenasia South.

It is just 11am at an informal settlement called Anglers - named after the railway station closer to it in Lenasia, southern Johannesburg.

Yellow dust fills the air on the hill along the R558 and the heat is intense.

Under such forbidding weather conditions, some of the residents are hard at work, building shacks.

Two men in blue overalls are laying the foundation for a new shack. The portion of the land in which they are building has already been marked with a fence.

A Toyota Conquest hatchback is parked not far from the shack. New corrugated iron sheets are piled on the side as the men sweat in the sun.

They refused to talk to Sowetan and referred us to a neighbour.

At the door of the neighbour's shack, stood little girl of about five years of age. She was home alone. Her mother works every day and is unable to take her to a créche, the neighbours told us.

The girl sometimes spends some time at another neighbour closeby.

"I brought her inside to eat. She is okay. I keep an eye on her," said neighbour Asiphe Tofu.

Tofu arrived at the informal settlement in July. Her yard has been properly demarcated with a fence, but she complains it is not big enough.

Tofu told Sowetan she was part of many residents who were shack tenants at another informal settlement at nearby Lawley. She and other former tenants raided the once bare land at Anglers.

Putting up a shack costs R3,000, and that includes the corrugated iron and concrete foundation.

"This is my third shack. Two other structures were demolished by JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Department], but I kept on rebuilding," Tofu said.

"I am settled now. No one can remove me. I want to build a proper house with bricks and mortar at the back and probably move the shack to the side."

Tofu lives with her boyfriend who works in Johannesburg.

She walks a long way to fetch water despite some of the her neighbours having taps in their yards.

"People had to contribute R150 to connect from a pipe running from the railway station. I did not pay, so they don't allow me to get water from their taps," Tofu said.

About 400 metres from Tofu's shack is the old section of the informal settlement called Narens Farm.

Both Narens Farm and Anglers residents joined forces in the July in a protest which turned violent.

Two people were shot as the informal settlement residents clashed with property owners who were complaining about the impact of the shacks on the value of their properties.

One of the protestors, Ishmael Mushoma, arrived in the area in 2014.

He has a beautiful yard with running water. The neighbourhood has unpaved streets but they have street lights.

Mushoma said about 500 new shacks had been built in the past few months and the number was increasing.

"We were few in this area. There were thugs on the hill who mugged people, more so at the end of the month.

"Our take was that it was because we were few households. We decided that we should expand and spread so that we can be able to stand our ground against the thugs," Mushoma said.

He believes that there is nothing that government can do as they were able to resist police in July.

"We are not going anywhere. They can bring President [Cyril] Ramaphosa if they like, we won't go anywhere," he said.

Ownership of the land both informal settlements have been established could not be established with certainty.

But Sowetan understands it could be part of many pockets of land in the south which are owned by Gauteng provincial government.