Vacant land an issue

2018-04-25 06:02
Advocate Tankiso Mea. with loudspeaker, addressing fed-up residents. Next to him is ward councillor John de Bruin.

Advocate Tankiso Mea. with loudspeaker, addressing fed-up residents. Next to him is ward councillor John de Bruin.

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Whose land it is anyway? This is the million-dollar question scores of Heide­dal residents who demand land to build houses on ask after law-enforcement agencies stopped them from occupying a vacant piece of land last week.

The police and the Mangaung Metro police, among others, stopped residents who attempted to occupy vacant land in the Mangaung Metro’s Ward 47.

The land in question is located on the corner of Papers Street and Witherow Avenue in Heidedal. It is approximately 30 m from the railway line along Mackenzie Street, which connects to Bloemfontein’s East End industrial zone.

The land grab attempt reportedly took place over three days, from Monday (16/04) until Wednesday (18/04). It turned violent late on Wednesday when the police clashed with residents. The police used stun grenades and rubber bullets.

This clash reportedly followed the wrongful arrest of Daniel Wessenaar. It emerged that he is one of the leaders championing the fight to get sites and build suitable dwellings.

Disgusted residents needing sites and houses claim the police targeted Wessenaar because he was wearing a branded T-shirt of a political party.

An eyewitness said Wessenaar did not object to leaving the land when ordered to do so by law enforcement.

“While we were standing there, the police grabbed Wessenaar and man-handled him. They pushed him against an iron pole in full view of residents and threw him in the van, and thereafter drove off,” said an eyewitness.

Reacting to Wessenaar’s arrest, residents went on the rampage. They closed off main roads, including Withe­row Avenue and Hearthdale Road, with burning tyres, stones and uncollected waste.

A vehicle was set ablaze in the middle of Witherow Avenue. Parts of the vehicle were stripped later.

Residents explained that their decision to occupy the vacant land followed apparent failed attempts to get clear answers as who the rightful owner was.

“First we were told the vacant land belongs to the city council, then it was private property. We were then told it is property of the railway. We are clueless as whose land it is anyway, hence we went to occupy it to get the right owner,” said one resident, a woman.

The thorny issue of the vacant land remains unresolved, despite intervention by the Mangaung Metro’s city manager Adv. Tankiso Mea.

He met with residents on Thursday (26/04) and addressed them in the presence of officials and Ward 47 councillor, John de Bruin.

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