Emfuleni mayor blames political battles for Rus-ter-vaal unrest

Reverend Gift Moerane (middle) flanked by Buang Jones from SAHRC (left) and Emfuleni MMC Edwin Kele address Ru-ter-vaaal residents on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Photo: Ntwaagae Seleka)
Reverend Gift Moerane (middle) flanked by Buang Jones from SAHRC (left) and Emfuleni MMC Edwin Kele address Ru-ter-vaaal residents on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Photo: Ntwaagae Seleka)
Ntwaagae Seleka

Angry residents of Rus-Ter-Vaal outside Vereeniging that has been plagued by violent protests heard that internal political battles are causing unrest in the area.

Emfuleni Mayor Reverend Gift Moerane addressed the residents on Wednesday, claiming it is not municipal officials, but rather internal strife that is fuelling the unrest. He stressed that he is against the stoking of racial division in the area.

Rus-Ter-Vaal residents have claimed that Emfuleni officials were responsible for tension between different race groups.

"We are not here to polarise Rus-Ter-Vaal residents, but to find solutions. The problem here is not caused by Emfuleni officials but by political battles in the area," said the mayor.

READ: Racial tension brewing over land in Vereeniging

Residents have accused ANC branch chairperson Madoda Mkhombeni and those close to him of allowing people from outside the area to erect informal housing structures. Mkhombeni was not present when the mayor addressed the crowd.

Last week, the ANC in the Sedibeng region said it was aware of the claims that some of its members, including Mkhombeni, were behind the land invasions. The party vowed to take action against those officials.

'Marginalised for too long'

One of the residents, Aubrey Hugo, 63, called on Moerane to prioritise residents of Rus-Ter-Vaal instead of outsiders who have invaded vacant land.

"Mr mayor, are you encouraging forced migration here? Mkhombeni is building his new village in Rus-Ter-Vaal and you don't take action against him," Hugo said.

"This area has been marginalised for too long. Where are houses for our children who were born and raised in Rus-Ter-Vaal? We have people who get houses ahead of our children," he continued, adding that government is "marginalising all coloured areas".  

Moerane promised that the eviction order against the land invaders would stand and they would continue executing it.

Wednesday's meeting was called by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) following three days of violent protests in the township.

The previous week, residents barricaded the R82 road linking Vereeniging and Johannesburg. Two people were killed when people living in Ramaphosa Village - the new informal settlement - clashed with Red Ants who were evicting them and demolishing informal housing structures.

Loss of lives 

Another resident, Frieda Mahomed-Modise, said there was "no Ramaphosa Village".

"We have one Rus-Ter-Vaal here. We were told for many years that the land they (residents of Ramaphosa village) have occupied is not inhabitable and they are still being allowed to stay there in that land even though we were told is not suitable for housing," she said.

Meanwhile, the SAHRC's Buang Jones said the meeting between residents and Mayor Moerane was called after consultations with both land occupiers and residents.

The commission summoned Moerane, police, the Red Ants and other officials to account for what had happened the previous week.

"We know what happened last week," Jones said. "We deeply regret the loss of lives. We are going to engage with SAPS regarding their investigations. This is a preliminary inquiry about what happened earlier," he said.

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