Squatter camps making life a 'living hell' for Lenasia South

The spread of informal settlements has angered residents of Lenasia South, forcing them to sell their properties as their market values decline.

When Sowetan visited the neighbourhood, nearly every fifth house had a "For Sale" sign.

Mary Peters*, who has lived in Lenasia South for 21 years, is also planning to leave. Peters said the area was no longer safe as crime has risen.

"People are selling their houses because of the squatters. Property prices are dropping, so there is no value in staying here," she said.

Another resident who also did not want to be named questioned why people who did not have places to stay chose the south to live as squatters.

"Why don't they go to white areas? Why are they targeting us [Indians]? It seems like they don't want us," the resident said.

He added that since the informal settlement has expanded, the U-Save outlet in the neighbourhood had been robbed twice in one year.

There is also a rise in crimes such as housebreaking and car theft.

One of the property owners exiting his house said his house had been on the market since March and he has not been able to find a buyer.

"We are paying for services while they are getting everything for free. Our properties are going down [in value].

"Look at how the squatter camp is growing on the other side," he said pointing across the railway line.

Across the railway line is a vast informal settlement called Konkotela which is growing each day.

Shiny new corrugated structures are growing. Anglers, Narens Farm and Konkotela have now engulfed the Lenasia South suburb.

Joy Govender, chairperson of the Lenasia Residents Association, explained the frustrations endured by property owners.

"If you drive into the area you will see the board saying 'For Sale', almost in every third house. We are actually battling to sell the properties. Even the banks consider our suburb a high-risk area.

"Crime has escalated. We are talking about rape, muggings, house-breakings, hijackings and vehicle theft. Vehicles stolen from other areas are also being found in our area.

"As the informal settlements grows, so has the crime," Govender said.

"There is one guy that lives up the road from me. He has a five-bedroom house. He put it in the market for R1.8m but he had to come down to R900,000 and is now at R750,000. This property has been on the market for over a year now."

Residents also complained about the illegal electricity connections which causes power outages in the area.

"Owning a property here has become a living hell," Govender said.

She added that property owners had met with the City of Johannesburg and the department of human settlements but no lasting solution could be found.

As property owners struggle to get buyers, some have resorted to renting their homes with the hope that government will address the situation.

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