Christmas land grab

2009-12-28 00:00

POLICE barricaded a piece of vacant municipal land near Brewitt Park, Estcourt, yesterday, after hundreds of people, some driving flashy cars, began invading the land on Christmas Day. They allocated plots among themselves, and some started to build shacks.

Residents of the area were divided, with some supporting and others resisting the invasion.

Opposers alleged that the invaders are members of the African National Congress, some of whom have come from outside Estcourt.

The party’s chief whip in the uMtshezi Local Municipality, Phiwo Sokhela, was implicated as one of the ringleaders.

A resident who did not want to be named said, “We saw ANC leaders among the group and there were also cars from out of town. The first group to offload building material was transported by bus. I don’t know where they were coming from.

“We don’t want a Zimbabwe in our country, so authorities need to do something very fast before this gets out of control.”

The municipality called in the police yesterday morning as more people flocked to the area to stake their claims.

While the police kept watch over the hundreds of invaders, municipal employees took down half-built shacks.

At 1 pm, local leaders of political parties met Brewitt Park residents, who said they will fight till the bitter end to stop people from invading the land illegally.

Community leader David Allen said the invasion was well planned, having been launched on Christmas Day.

“On Saturday and Sunday no court order could be obtained. I commend the community of Estcourt for pulling together, irrespective of political affiliation or race, to ensure that justice prevails,” Allen said.

Municipal manager Nontlantla Njoko said she does not know what might have led to the situation.

“At no stage have we had an instance that can be linked to this invasion. We don’t know who is behind this, but from our analysis we discovered that it is not the poor and destitute who are doing this,” said Njoko, pointing to the flashy cars dri­ven by some of the invaders.

She said the area has been earmarked for development and that arrangements with the developer are at an advanced stage.

“This land is for Brewitt Park Phase 2 and the very people who are invading it would benefit from the development,” Njoko said.

A court order was obtained yesterday to prevent anyone from going on to the land and warned trespassers they will be prosecuted. Fencing and notices that the land belongs to the municipality will be erected.

uThukela District constituency leader for the DA Tom Stokes said his party has information that local ANC members and councillors instigated the invasion.

“Apparently this is some sort of a tit-for-tat between the ANC and IFP, as the latter had carried out a similar invasion on a piece of land just outside of town,” Stokes said.

Sokhela said his party distances itself from the illegal invasion. “The fact is, we don’t know how these people got there and the ANC has nothing to do with this. We respect the law.”

At the time of going to press, the IFP could not be reached for comment.

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