MEC warns land invaders of action

Businesses and residents who illegally occupied government land and properties in the Eastern Cape have until the end of next month to come clean to authorities – or face legal action.

Roads and public works MEC Thandiswa Marawu warned that this formed part of the national government Operation Bring Back aimed at cracking down on illegal occupation or invasion of state-owned properties.

Land invasion has for years been a thorny issue and in some cases, development has stalled because of residents refusing to vacate land earmarked for development.

Marawu was speaking during the second day of the Taking Parliament and Legislature to the People programme at the Abbotsford Christian Centre this week.

She singled out Bhongweni near the East London Airport as an area where people built on government land. The land that was invaded had been earmarked for airport extensions, she said.

The Daily Dispatch previously reported that BCM wanted to demolish the houses in Bhongweni.

The houses, some of them double-storey mansions, started popping up in the area about four years ago and other are still being built there illegally.

“They invaded in Bhongweni and built expensive large houses,” Marawu said.

“But … talks between national public works, provincial public works, BCM and human settlements because there are those people that have to be relocated into RDP houses. If there wasn’t that land invasion problem, the process would have been very easy but those big expensive houses are hindering this.”

Some of the land and government properties illegally invaded include Hamburg, Cintsa, Dimbaza and Dikidikana, both in King William’s Town, and former ministerial gated residential area Enkululekweni in Mthatha.

Marawu said in the last two weeks they had visited Reeston and saw the houses that had been illegally occupied. After the visit, she said, her department received scores of messages from those who had illegally occupied the properties, saying they saw that the houses were being vandalised, so they put doors in and moved in.

“You can’t put doors in a house that doesn’t belong to you,” she said to applause and cheers.

“I feel sorry for those who think we’re not aware that they have illegally occupied government properties – those who have already extended the houses and made improvements. They’re in trouble because we are taking back government houses.”

The MEC said because they had no capacity to keep and maintain all the houses, they would officially hand them to residents who were honest enough to report they had invaded.

Government has since roped in auditors Ernst and Young to probe how many properties have been illegally occupied, Marawu’s spokesman Mphumzi Zuzile said.

“People must come forward and if anyone knows of any government property being occupied illegally, they must also come forward...

“The end of December is the deadline for them to come forward and make arrangements with us.

“Then, we’ll take it from there and take legal action to evict the person if they’re not willing to cooperate with us,” he said. — ndamasem@dispatch.co.za

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