Squatters to be moved from danger

2011-08-25 07:41
Pretoria - Illegal squatters at a munition-littered zone in Atteridgeville will soon be moved to another area near Pretoria, the City of Tshwane said on Wednesday.

"We are in the process of moving them. It will happen in phases, as soon as possible. We can't afford to keep these people there. We don't want to put their lives in danger," said city spokesperson Brenda Mpitsang.

The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that the city had rejected a proposal by demining company Mechem in 2008 to clear the area, used as a shooting range during the Second World War.

Mechem is owned by state arms manufacturer Denel.

Exploding ammunition

Squatters in the area have in recent years been reportedly killed or maimed by exploding ammunition. In 2008, 37-year-old Amos Khoza and his 4-year-old son Njabulo were killed when a mortar shell exploded at their home after they lit a bonfire in their yard.

It is estimated that about 10 tons of ammunition - including mortar shells, mines, tank shells, hand-grenades and bullets - were dumped in trenches in what was known as the Schurveberg artillery range in the 1940s.

Mpitsang acknowledged that the area was declared dangerous and uninhabitable since it was handed over to the city in 1991 by the then defence force, but said clearing the area was too costly.

"The first option was to make it habitable but the amount which Mechem's proposed to clear the area was too high," said Mpitsang.

"The city was using its discretion... instead of putting a lot of money towards clearing the area, we opted to use it to develop the other area where residents would be relocated."

Mpitsang said this was the second group of squatters to invade the site.

Although the first group of squatters was relocated to nearby Lotus Gardens in 2008, the area has not been fenced off and no danger signs have been erected.

Mpitsang insisted the city would do so once people had been relocated.

An alternative area had been identified. She could not disclose where residents would be resettled for fears that the site would be invaded.

Read more on:    mechem  |  health and safety  |  housing

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