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‘Sol turning blind eye to land grabs’

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“Just the number of interdicts and evictions we have obtained and community engagements that have been held are indicative of our actions”

Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE SOL Plaatje Municipality has been accused of doing little to prevent ongoing land grabs and mushrooming illegal settlements in and around Kimberley.

The DA’s Delmaine Christians said yesterday that in the latest incident, the erection of illegal shacks on the piece of land at the corner of Palvie and Silson streets in Kirstenhof had caused much unhappiness amongst residents living in the surrounding area.

“The land in question, which was not earmarked for housing but rather development, has not been serviced for the purposes of human settlements. Shack dwellers are crossing over into the residential area to collect water from the taps of residents, who ultimately have to pay for additional water use. At the same time, there is no sanitation and people are using the bushes as toilets, which is a health risk. Crime in the area has also escalated, and rate-paying residents are concerned about the devaluation of their properties.”

Christains pointed out that the Palvie Street settlement was not the only one.

“Every day, more illegal shacks are springing up in and around Kimberley. In fact, some erven are even being allocated by self-appointed ‘land allocation committees’. One of these unauthorised groups has called itself the ‘Concerned Residents’. It is made up of a group of young people who have taken it upon themselves to allocate land. It seems that some of them have moved out from their parents’ homes and simply want a place to call their own.”

Christains added further that while the land in Palvie Street was municipal land, the practice of land grabs remained unacceptable.

“The DA understands the frustrations of people who continue to be deprived of an opportunity to own their own home because Sol Plaatje is too incompetent to secure and avail land and because it has been slow in addressing housing issues. However, it still cannot just be a free-for-all.”

Christians pointed out that there were elderly people who had been waiting for houses for years. “Now young people are simply jumping the queue. At this rate, government will never be able to address its ever growing housing backlog.”

He accused the Sol Plaatje Municipality of turning a blind eye. “This makes one question who is actually behind the land grabs.”

According to Christians, by failing to act speedily, the municipality was tacitly approving the land use for housing purposes. “In fact, it is forfeiting its 48-hour period on which to remove residents from the land with no strings attached. After the 48 hours have expired, the municipality becomes bound to achieve certain conditions before relocating the shack dwellers.”

He added that not only was the municipality creating an additional financial burden for itself but was also creating an enabling environment for land grabs.

“This is very worrying given the current climate of expropriation without compensation.

“The DA has raised the Palvie Street matter with the municipality but we have not received the response that we require. In effect, Sol Plaatje’s management of land and housing most definitely does not inspire confidence that, should the highly controversial property clause in Section 25 of the Constitution relinquish property rights, property will be managed in a controlled and fair process.”

Christains stated that DA councillors would continue to seek answers and action on Palvie Street, as well as other illegal settlements in the city, while he would also escalate the matter to a national level.

“In order for our city, our Province and our country to go forwards, property rights must, at all times, be fairly allocated and protected.”

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie said yesterday that there was absolutely no basis to the allegation by the DA.

“Just the number of interdicts and evictions we have obtained and community engagements that have been held are indicative of our actions,” said Matsie.

He added that while the municipality was faced with these land invasions, the local authority had sought not to criminalise what was clearly a legacy of the past.

“Councillors have also on numerous occasions had engagements with the affected community.

“What should also be noted is that land is limited and some community members do want to accept vacant land in areas that the municipality intends developing. Another reason is that sometimes land that is occupied is private and land owners need to take responsibility for their properties. They should similarly approach the relevant authorities.”