Plot 80: A circus without clowns

Residents claim they are up against "mafia element".

When the people from the Mathomba informal settlement next to Cradlestone Mall were relocated on June 20 to make way for an interchange to be constructed, Joe Public might rightly have thought that it was the happy ending to an inconvenient little drama.

Also read: Humane end to a heartless start

But for those landowners close to Portion 80 of the farm Rietfontein in Muldersdrift, also known as Plot 80, this was just another instalment of a soap opera that has them up in arms for reasons that might surprise.

The News met with several stakeholders, many of whom afraid to go on record – not because they fear their new neighbours (the squatters from Cradlestone Mall) but rather because they fear the authorities and powerful developers. One landowner summed it up.

We are up against a mafia-like element in the local government as well as the building mafia.”

All those concerned strongly echoed the primacy of one sentiment though: the squatters have been dumped on Plot 80 in an inhumane way. A man who is very vocal about the whole issue is the chairperson of the Nooitgedacht South and Heritage Drive Residents Association, Jorncy Page. Page has agreed to go on record and was mandated by other members of the association to speak on their behalf.

“We are not against the squatters being settled here, but for heaven’s sake, it needs to be done in a humane and legally compliant way. Why is Mogale City and Gautrans not following the laws everyone else has to follow? We welcome the development but it needs to be done with the proper services in place so everyone can piggyback on them. A few portaloos and a water tank for these people are not services,” said Page, referring to what the Mogale City Local Municipality (MCLM) has done in terms of ‘services’ at Plot 80 thus far.

Chairperson of the Nooitgedact South and Heritage Drive Residents Association, Jorncy Page. Photo: Riaan van Zyl.

Page has criticised MCLM and the Gauteng Transport Department extensively for how they dealt with the issue. These are some of the association’s main concerns:

• According to Page no proper Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was done, and “verbal exemption” was given for the development of Plot 80. This is illegal as the law requires an EIA before any residential development can take place. This is enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa.
• The group also wanted to know why proper bulk services were not installed before the squatters were moved. This matter has been ongoing for years, and the land could have been prepared properly for human habitation.
• Page and the association also wanted to know how this move could have been in the interest of the squatters or the public, such as the permanent property owners in the area, if there are no services, if it’s further from their places of employment as well as from schools.

By definition, the government is supposed to act in the public interest,” said an angry Page.

• According to Page and other interested parties including a renowned academic, Plot 80 lies on a waterway/ river system as well as near/ on a wetland and highveld grasslands. Page and company want to know how a human settlement can be allowed in light of this.
• A major concern for all involved is the fact that there is no sewerage system and the pressing question is how this will affect groundwater. Page asked what scientific testing had been done to answer this question.
• In terms of the law, property owners adjacent to land earmarked for development should be informed in writing of what is planned, but Page and the other landowners have never received any such written notifications. Again Page asked why MCLM is exempt from the laws that govern property development.

The interchange was already promulgated in 1976, but never got off the ground. In 2012 a tender to the tune of R350 million was awarded in a corrupt fashion and a court case followed. Meanwhile, according to Page and others, due to the Gauteng Department of Transport’s negligence the squatters moved in on the earmarked land next to Cradlestone Mall. By the time the court case was resolved in 2018 the squatters had become an issue.

The News has obtained comment from MCLM on these and other issues pertaining to the debacle, and it will be published in a separate article.

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