Forced removals

2008-12-22 00:00

The spectre of apartheid’s forced removals of people from their established homes looms like a dark cloud over the collective memory of this country. There is therefore an instinctive sense of outrage when news breaks, as it did last week, about informal settlers in Cedara having their houses bulldozed on the orders of the uMngeni Municipality. These dwellers were not given time to remove their personal belongings, nor were they allocated alternative land on which to settle.

Yet what looks draconian was also an assertion of the principle that it is not acceptable for land to be arbitrarily and illegally occupied. The settlers had several times been warned about this and told to move. Their refusal led ultimately to a court order which has now been implemented. Firm action was delayed for 13 years and now looks unduly harsh and uncaring. Much earlier action would have been prudent and would have delivered the right signal.

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