Fri, 24 May 2019

Residents of Ramaphosa Village, the informal settlement in Rus-Ter-Vaal outside Vereeniging, have vowed to stay put, despite eviction orders for their removal.

The Emfuleni municipality obtained an order to evict 400 people who have occupied a piece of land in the area. Ramaphosa Village has 408 informal houses that have been erected in the area since February. Community leaders say they expect at least 2 000 people to occupy the land.

No to evictions

Earlier on Wednesday, the South African Human Rights Commision (SAHRC) summoned Emfuleni municipality mayor Reverend Gift Moerane, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Red Ants officials to account for a tragic incident which claimed two lives last week.

Two people died when occupiers clashed with Red Ants who were in the area to demolish informal houses and evict the group.

Residents of Rus-Ter-Vaal want the informal settlements in the area demolished.

However those living in Ramaphosa Village have vowed to stay put.

"We are here to stay. No one is going to remove us. This is our country and we are entitled to stay where we want," shouted Xolelwa Tlepu.

She claimed that she was from the Eastern Cape and came to Rus-Ter-Vaal seeking greener pastures. Another resident, Kgomotso Pelatona, has been residing in the informal settlement for two months.

"I have been renting a shack in someone's yard for too long. Landlords in Rus-Ter-Vaal treat their tenants as nothing.

"I am happy that I now have a piece of land that I own for free," said Pelatona.

She added that they were digging pit toilets and fetching water from neighbouring houses.

"Our children are attending schools here. If Emfuleni continues applying its court order, they must provide us with alternative accommodation which is closer to our children's schools," she said.

Unhappy

Zoleka Mjemela said she has been residing in Rus-Ter-Vaal since 1994. She now rents an informal house for R400 a month.

"Our landlords are unhappy since we moved to Ramaphosa Village. They have lost money they made from our rent money.

"We are aware that Rus-Ter-Vaal residents want us evicted from our squatter camp. We're not going anywhere," she said.

Alfonso Pesa arrived in the area over 20 years ago. He was working at a factory in Meyerton near Vereening. Pesa said his two children own stands at Ramphosa Village.

"I have my own house and will not allow my children to age in my house while their peers are occupying land. No one is going to be removed. Our children need accommodation and they can't afford to buy houses. Therefore, they have no option but to occupy land," said Pesa.

Allegations

ANC Ward 16 branch chairperson Madoda Mkhombeni has rubbished allegations that he is behind land invasions in the area.

Last week, convener of the ANC Regional Task Team Slovo Majola said they had been informed that Mkhombeni and other ANC members were encouraging land invasions in the Vaal region.

Majola promised that action will be taken against Mkhombeni and others who are implicated. Mkhombeni, however, said the allegations were meant to divide his branch.

"The allegations are nothing but part of infighting within the ANC. They are badmouthing me. I have never told people to occupy land. I only support them because they need land and can't afford to pay rent," he said.

Divided

Mkhombeni, who is a member of the Ramaphosa Village Committee, said if the ANC wants to take action against him they will kill their own party.

"The majority of occupiers are card-carrying ANC members. The ANC here in Ramaphosa Village is in the majority. Our ANC branch here is divided. We are aware that some residents claim that those residing in the squatter camp are from outside Gauteng, which is a lie. These people are former backyard dwellers needing land and houses," said Mkhombeni.

Earlier in the day, the Emfuleni mayor addressed residents during a public meeting, confirming that the situation in the neighbourhood was caused by infighting in the ANC in the region. Moerane said he was against racial polarisation in the area and vowed that evictions will take place at the right time.

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