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Motherwell land invaders seemingly ignoring warning to sleep with one eye open

By Afikile Lugunya - Feb 20, 2018
Motherwell land invaders seemingly ignoring warning to sleep with one eye open

As more and more shacks spring up on municipal land in Motherwell NU29, Ikamvelihle and Wells Estate, in Port Elizabeth, it would seem residents are either not aware of or have chosen to ignore Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Human Settlements, Nqaba Bhanga's, warning that the Sheriff of Court will be visiting the area soon.

Bhanga gave the warning after being pressed for answers on the housing situation in the Metro by local residents during a recent visit to the Bay by Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Mmusi Maimane.

The residents previously accused him of only visiting them when someone has died due to the housing situation in NU29. He previously denied the allegation.

While addressing them, he warned that they learn to sleep with one eye open because nobody knew the exact day when the Sheriff of Court will decide to demolish every illegal shack as happened last year.

After the evictions in June 2017, which resulted in the burning of vehicles by angry residents, they have again returned to the same land and rebuilt their shacks.

Bhanga said that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Council had argued against the decision of the courts to demolish all illegally-built shacks in December 2017.

“We were supposed to have removed those people in December, but the Council took a decision that stated that those people must be allowed to occupy that space and we listened.

“Still, people came back to the City Manager to tell him that the council decision was illegal and argued that you cannot say that people, who invade municipal land must not be removed, because the decision was taken by the courts,” Bhanga described.

He tried to explain to the residents about the separation of powers, however, the residents didn’t seem keen to listen anymore - instead calling him a liar.

“That decision was taken by the court and according to South African law and the separation of powers, the legislature is the parliament and they don’t have power over court decisions because those two hold separate powers. So, they came back to inform us that we cannot revoke a court decision," Bhanga described.

“What that means is that the court decision to remove people still stands until the court states otherwise."

He emphasised that the Sheriff of Court does not work for the municipality, but for the courts.

“Tomorrow, the Sheriff may wake up and decide to implement the court order to remove all these shacks situated here,” Bhanga added.

While many residents were left without their belongings during the evictions, Bhanga had good news for them…or not.

“Another decision that was taken by the Council was that people in Wells Estate that were evicted last year and lost their belongings must be compensated. However, that decision was only taken by the Council so it doesn’t mean that you will immediately be compensated,” with that, he returned to his sit leaving the residents grumbling.

Former Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, who is also the United Democratic Movement (UDM) Regional Chairperson, Mongameli Bobani, accused Bhanga and the Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, of using apartheid tactics as they continue to "bully black people".

“When the motion was brought in the council, Bhanga and Trollip opposed saying that township people that occupy municipal land must be evicted, but they failed because they are not the majority ruling party.

“The Sheriff will not just wake up and think to evict people without being authorised by them, they lost and they must accept it and offer water, electricity and toilets to those residents living in informal settlements,” Bobani described.

He added that, when a motion has been decided in a caucus, it must be implemented no questions asked, meaning that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality must now provide all the necessities for them to survive must be implemented.