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Shack owners charge Sol

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Shack owners have opened a case of theft and malicious damage to property after their Lerato Park shacks were demolished

Several shacks were demolished by municipal workers after residents in Lerato Park moved into houses at the new housing development project. However, a case of theft and malicious damage to property has now been opened against the municipality. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A CASE of theft and malicious damage to property has been opened against the Sol Plaatje Municipality after shacks were demolished at the Lerato Park informal settlement.

Police spokesperson, Sergeant Majang Skalkie, yesterday confirmed that the police were investigating a case of malicious damage to property and theft.

“No suspect has been arrested yet.”

She also appealed to members of the community that if they had any information regarding the stolen items to contact the investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Lerato Phiri, on 053 807 5500.

The shacks were apparently demolished by the municipality last week.

One of the complainants, Pastor Alfred Selloane, stated that his belongings, including his furniture valued at R44 810, were destroyed in the process.

“Church material, including irreplaceable religious books that were sourced from South America, with a value of R10 000, were strewn on the ground. My computer, toolbox and plumbing tool set were damaged. My pastoral certificates are missing and now I cannot preach without them.”

He indicated that all the membership forms of the Lerato Park Community Forum were also lost in the process.

“It is strange that the tuckshop on the corner was not taken down.”

Selloane explained that after he had claimed a house at the Lerato Park housing development in 2014, he allowed a construction worker and another woman to stay in his shack at the informal settlement.

“To my surprise my shanty was pulled down without due notice. Now the people staying in my shack have nowhere to go. I was not even charging them rent. No court order was obtained to take down my shack.”

He added that he had reached an agreement with the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs and the housing unit at the municipality in 2015 to register and connect prepaid electricity, in his name, to pay for the services used until his house under phase two of the Lerato housing project was completed.

Selloane added that shack owners who had moved to the houses allowed their family members to continue living in their shanties.

“The houses are too small to accommodate everyone and their furniture.”

He said a community meeting was scheduled to motivate for a motion of no confidence in the councillor, Paul Kok.

He pointed out that he was willing to stand as a candidate to replace Kok as the ward councillor in Lerato Park.

Another resident, Kgomotso Morakile, who erected his shanty last week, indicated that everyone was looking for a plot of land.

“There is not enough land to go around. I am on the waiting list and I do not know how long I will have to wait before I get my house. There are currently about 3 000 people living in the informal settlement alone.”

Other residents stated that although the houses were small, they were eagerly waiting for a permanent roof over their heads.

“We have been waiting forever for houses while people who are not from the area are moving in before us. There are foreigners who are also living in the squatter camp. There are government officials driving fancy cars who were given houses while we are languishing in the dirt and the dust.”

Several tuckshops and shanties have also been erected behind the houses.

Kok stated that about seven shacks were demolished as the occupants had moved to the housing development in October last year.

“Residents are supposed to take down their shacks within three days after being moved. There are dependents and family members who have been left behind in the shacks. There are instances where shanties have been rented out with up to six people who are living in one shanty.

“The people who lived in the shacks have already been awarded houses. In one instance a house was exchanged for R30 000 in return for a flat whereupon the person proceeded to rent out the flat and returned to the shanty.”

He added that houses were earmarked for construction where the informal settlement was situated.

Kok also pointed out that any illegal structure would be removed.

“Whoever wishes to go to the highest court to oppose the demolition of the shacks is welcome to do so. “The whole purpose of the housing development was to eradicate shacks. The unoccupied shanties can become drug dens and crime havens. We cannot allow more people to move into the informal settlement.”

Spokesperson for Sol Plaatje Municipality Thoko Riet said that the affected parties were served with notice to vacate their shacks on July 20.

“The municipality in consultation with the councillor broke down seven shacks after the occupants moved to their houses in Lerato Park. In some of the shacks, it was discovered that some were already sold but not moved out of the area and some rented out.”

She added that residents were given ample warning that their materials would be confiscated if they were not removed.

“They cannot claim as they were sufficiently informed even a day before the action was taken. No new shacks will be allowed to be erected in the area.”

Riet indicated that according to the last aerial photograph taken, there were more than 2 500 people living in the informal settlement and 900 beneficiaries staying in the houses so far.

“We will not be able to assist other areas if we allow more shacks to be built in Lerato Park and let other people to rent out or sell their shacks after been moved to their houses.”