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sol meets Land grabbers

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Residents had already formed a committee and met with the executive mayor, municipal manager, chief whip and Speaker of the Sol Plaatje Municipality to negotiate the provision of basic services to the area

MEETING: Some of the committee members of Rhythm City will apparently meet with the owners of the land that they illegally occupied on the weekend. Picture: Soraya Crowie

ONE OF the owners of the piece of land behind the West End Cemetery in Finlayson Road is expected to meet with members of the community who have claimed the property, which they have dubbed Rhythm City, to erect their shanties on.

It was a free-for-all as hundreds of city residents started measuring off their piece of land on the property since Friday last week.

The land, which was originally earmarked for a R300 million student village, has been standing vacant since May 2014.

It is believed that part of the land is owned by the Northern Cape Urban TVET College. When contacted for comment yesterday, a spokesperson for the college, believed to be the vice-principal, said they would be meeting with the community.

“Once we have met with them we will decide on the way forward. At this point resorting to the courts is not an option we have considered,” she said.

By yesterday, residents had already formed a committee and met with the executive mayor, municipal manager, chief whip and Speaker of the Sol Plaatje Municipality to negotiate the provision of basic services to the area.

A committee member, Kagiso Aries, said that they plan to flatten the entire area and build between six to eight streets.

“Our meeting with the Sol Plaatje Municipality has proved fruitful as they have indicated that besides the basic services there will be taps in every street,” Aries said yesterday.

He said that they have been overwhelmed by the interest shown by those who also wanted a piece of land. “We have had more than
1 000 people arriving at the site since Friday. We will have to make the demarcations smaller to accommodate more people. Those who we can’t help will be put on a list which will be handed to the Sol Plaatje Municipality,” Aries said.

He pointed out, however, that not just anybody could claim a piece of land. “Those wanting to reside in Rhythm City will have to go through a very strict selection process as we don’t want any drugs or crime in our township. We are not racist, but we won’t be allowing foreigners in.

“Also, if you already own a shanty you will be denied a piece of land. This is for those who do not have anything or where there are 10 people living in a one-room dwelling. We will also not tolerate school children wasting their time in Rhythm City. They will need to go to school.”

Aries said that they were sick and tired of crime and that they would not tolerate it in any way, not only in the settlement but also in the neighbouring community.

“We will also not tolerate any loud music or drinking.”

He added that they were not selling the land and no money was changing hands.

“This is also not politically motivated. You will see people with their ANC, EFF and even DA T-shirts marking out their piece of land. This is all about landless people who want a decent way of life.”

Persome Oliphant, spokesperson for the executive mayor of the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Patrick Mabilo, confirmed that the mayor had met with the residents.

“On Monday the executive mayor held a meeting with the community and took note of their concerns and challenges. A follow-up meeting was then held with the Speaker and the ward councillor,” Oliphant said.

She added that Mabilo was “extremely concerned” about the occupation of the land and the “mushrooming of illegal shacks in and around the city”.

“The municipality and government’s stance on illegal occupations is that it is unlawful and the Constitution protects the rights of property owners, including the municipality.”

Mabilo added that the spate of illegal land demarcations are concerning as the land grabs stifle service delivery and “there can be no justification for negative development in our city”.

“We therefore discourage communities from embarking on land grabs. It will not be allowed and must stop with immediate effect.”

He said that the municipality remains resolute and those found illegally invading land will be dealt with according to the law. “The municipality will work hand in hand with law enforcement agencies to ensure illegal land grabs do not occur.”

Mabilo admitted that the availability of land and housing is a critical issue in the city.

“Therefore, residents in need of housing can approach the local municipality or provincial sector departments. I humbly request the community to halt the illegal occupation of any land and rather engage with the municipality on alternative solutions.”