The South African Human Rights Commission has called for the Emfuleni municipality to investigate allegations that a municipal official was involved in soliciting funds from unlawful land occupiers in the Rust-Ter-Vaal informal settlement in return for their continued residence on the land.
ANC chairperson of Emfuleni municipality’s ward 16, Madoda Mkhombeni, has come under fire with other ANC members after it was reported that they were behind land invasions in the area.
Mayor of the municipality, Reverend Gift Moerane, said that he was aware of the allegations.
“I had one individual forward a receipt to me claiming that it was given to him by Mkhombeni as proof of payment for erecting a structure on the piece of land,” he said.
“We encourage people with any information regarding this to please come forward.”
According to a source at the commission, Mkhombeni solicited amounts of more than R2 000 a person to erect a house on the land in question.
Moerane added: “Mkhombeni was told to stop encouraging people to occupy the space because we as the municipality have not approved that settlement.”
He added that there had been attempts to remove people from the land but evictions had to be halted.
“Two weeks ago we started evictions but two people died [one was a Red Ant member] so we could not continue until investigations into the cause of the deaths had been completed.”
The human rights commission’s provincial manager in Gauteng, Buang Jones, told City Press that a number of people currently occupying the land had complained to the commission about these illegal activities.
“We as the commission have sent a letter to the municipality requesting it to investigate the allegations and subsequently lodge a criminal case against the individual [Mkhombeni] with the South African Police Services and the directorate for High Priority Crimes Investigation,” he said.
Jones told City Press that Mkhombeni may be guilty of contravening section three of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.
Mkhombeni who is also a member of the Rust-Ter-Vaal community forum, denied all allegations against him.
“No one is paying me a fee of any kind. I have not received any money from anyone. That is absolutely not true,” he said.
“It has been said that I am telling people to occupy this land that is also a lie. People took it upon themselves to invade the land and I do support them. That does not mean I am telling them to do it, but if they decide to, I support them.”
Mkhombeni said that individuals occupying the land had the right to do so because they had been renting from as far back as 1996 and finally needed to own property.
“This land belongs to the people. It is not private land. The mayor has not come to engage these people, instead he just decided that they should be evicted. He is the mayor, he is supposed to listen to people’s grievances,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Democratic Alliance marched to the embattled ANC-governed Emfuleni municipality a day after an ANC delegation, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, “capitalised” on Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba’s shunning of disgruntled Alexandra residents – an action that further enraged them.
During the opposition party’s visit to the municipality, DA Gauteng premier candidate Solly Msimanga spoke of how Emfuleni needed urgent rescuing.
“Why did Ramaphosa and the ANC run to Alexandra instead of coming to Emfuleni, which has time and again been adjudged to be the worst performing municipality in Gauteng?” he said.
Msimanga’s remarks came after the Alexandra total shut down in which roads were blockaded and tyres set alight as residents were disgruntled over issues including lack of service delivery and housing.
During his visit to the battered community currently under the DA leadership, Ramaphosa promised residents his party would build one million houses over the next five years and tablets for schools over the same period.
According to acting spokesperson of the Public Protector Oupa Segwale, his office together with the human rights commission will intervene in the Alexandra crisis.
“The Public Protector and the commission are to combine efforts in a bid to get to the bottom of service delivery complaints in the township,” he said.