Landless residents threaten sleepover outside Luthuli House

Luthuli House in the Johannesburg CBD should brace itself for a "sleepover" if the Gauteng government doesn’t address issues raised by landless residents of Freedom Park in the south of the city.

On Monday, the residents - mainly elderly women - picketed outside ANC headquarters, demanding land.

The protesters, who said they were from Freedom Park and neighbouring areas, vowed that they would spend this coming Sunday night sleeping outside the headquarters if their demands were not met.

Community leader Thabang Makhele said they were protesting over the non-implementation of the multimillion-rand Southern Farms Mega Project in the south of Johannesburg.

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Makhele accused both the City of Johannesburg and the provincial human settlements department of applying delaying tactics with residents.

"Over R650m was budgeted for by MEC [of human settlement] Uhuru Moiloa earlier this year. The City is refusing to implement the project for political reasons. We want the province to take over the project from the City.

"Thousands of people in Lehae, Eldorado Park and Freedom Park are landless. They demand land to build their own houses. Land has been approved for development by the province. But the City is delaying the implementation," he said.

'City is blaming province and province is blaming City'

Protesters arrived at Luthuli House, demanding the ear of ANC top leadership who meet every Monday at the headquarters.

"It is difficult to reach the mayor [Herman Mashaba]. We expect the [ANC] NEC [National Executive Committee] to instruct Premier David Makhura to take over the project from Mashaba.

"We want a joint press conference by Mashaba, Makhura and Moiloa to tell us when the project will begin. The City is blaming the province and the province is blaming the City on this matter. We also demand community control of the project. We want to be part of the project from the initial stages. We want ownership of the development. We don’t want to rubber stamp the project," he said.

He vowed that, on Sunday, they would bring more residents to sleep outside the ruling party’s headquarters to ensure that, when the ANC bigwigs meet next Monday, they will find them there.

Makhele claimed that former human settlement MEC, and now ANC treasurer general, Paul Mashatile had promised that they would allocate 48 000 stands in the project for human settlement.

Babylon Xeketwana accepted the memorandum on behalf of ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte. He promised to hand it over to her and said that she would hand it over to the relevant officials.

Human settlements spokesperson Keith Khoza said the land in Southern Farms was owned by the City of Johannesburg.

'The mayor wants to see delivery'

"The City is currently busy with internal process for the implementation of the project. The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements plans to access 5 000 stands in the development. The stands will be used to build RDP houses and be rolled out as serviced stands.

"The department has not yet allocated money to the project, as it is awaiting the City’s internal processes to be completed. It is expected that money will be allocated in the next financial year or when the City’s internal processes are concluded," said Khoza.

The department said it was aware of the protest and was disappointed, as it had kept the residents informed on the issue.

City of Johannesburg housing department acting executive director Thabo Maisela denied the allegations that Mashaba was playing politics and applying delaying tactics.

Regarding projects of this nature, Maisela said procurement processes took time and that there were some issues that needed to be conducted before the project went to tender.

"Housing is a priority and there is no way Mr Mashaba would delay such a project. The mayor wants to see delivery being implemented for our people. There is no way that he is going to play politics. We have to follow due processes; if not, it (project) will come back and bite us. Funding has been approved and resources are available to can start with the implementation," he said.

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