Bushbuckridge - The Bushbuckridge municipality in Mpumalanga says it was forced to remove shacks after residents invaded land earmarked for a multi-billion rand project last week.
Some residents of Marite illegally occupied Injaka 267 KU and 273 KU and erected shacks, a News24 correspondent reported.
Municipal spokesperson Aubrey Mnisi said the municipality, along with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, had earmarked the land for a R1.5bn lemon plantation and a waterfront hotel, as well as related infrastructure at the Inyaka Dam.
"Once implemented, the project will create a score of job opportunities for the local municipality and reduce the unemployment rate, which is at 52%," he said.
Mnisi added that the municipality would work closely with law enforcement agencies to prosecute those who continued to occupy land without permission.
They were appealing to members of the public to report illegal invasions to the municipality and to verify the validity of land transactions with the town planning and land use management directorate, he said.
'What is freedom without land?'
One angry community member, Lizah Ndlovu, 45, said the land had not been used for a long time and she and the other invaders were tired of being homeless.
"We feel disappointed by how the municipality handled the situation by removing our shacks before meeting with us," she said.
"The Mogane tribal authority gave us an allowance to have stands on the site,"she added.
She said it was not their fault that the municipality and the tribal authority had failed to communicate with each other.
The area was overgrown and was becoming a haven for livestock thieves and criminals, she added.
Another resident, Bethuel Ngobeni, said it was unfair for the municipality to remove them without offering alternative land.
"Our government doesn't care about us at all. What is freedom without land? We can't be staying in our parent's houses forever. We want our own space," he said.
Attempts to reach the Mogane tribal authority were unsuccessful.