News / South Africa

Ofentse Maphari
2 minute read
15 Sep 2017
6:30 am

Protesters demanding houses close Golden Highway

Ofentse Maphari

Residents say the area has been approved for development but at the same time the land was being sold to private developers.

Community members erect a shack at Vlakfontein, South of Johannesburg, 14 September 2017, after deciding to occupy land by force. Some members claim that they have been waiting for the past 13 years for houses. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Angry residents of Vlakfontein, in the south of Johannesburg, near Lenasia, blockaded the Golden Highway yesterday in a protest against what they say is the government’s failure to honour a promise to provide them with houses.

The target of their anger is human settlements MEC Paul Mashatile, whom they hold accountable for the lack of housing, which were promised in 2014 as part of a broader plan to develop the whole of Vlakfontein.

Sebenzile Khumalo, one of the protesters, recalled that the government initially built extensions one, two and three, but when it was time for extension four to be built there was a halt.

“They told us they were still drawing up a budget so the area, extension four, could be part of Vlakfontein and have a park in the centre,” she said.

As the community waited, Khumalo claimed, the land was being sold to private companies.

“We know this land is privately owned – but we are black, we have inherited this land … it’s our land! We cannot be called land invaders on our own land,” she continued.

Khumalo said the area has been approved for development but at the same time the land was being sold to private developers. The residents said they are not opposed to moving out of the area, provided they are given land they can build on. Until that happened, the land occupation would continue, said Khumalo.

“This is the land we were promised and it’s the land we want. We will stay here and the government must deliver while we are here so we can see the service delivery,” she said as the crowd cheered in agreement.

Isdien Mangera has been a resident in the Vlakfontein developing extension for the past five months. He has a big family, consisting of five children and his wife, to look after. He has been waiting for his house for more than 10 years and said he is fed up with the government’s empty promises.

“The government must learn to keep their promises. We cannot constantly protest for something we have rights to,” he said.

Mangera had previously been living in his brother’s backyard before moving to occupy the land.

“The government told us this area was supposed to be for factories and agricultural purposes but we don’t have houses. So we will stay here until we do. They are the ones that told us that,” he added.

The protesters vowed to continue to barricade the Golden Highway until Mashatile meets them to listen to their grievances. Mashatile’s spokesperson, Mogomotsi Mogodiri, could not be reached at the time of going to print. – news@citizen.co.za

CHECK THE GALLERY BELOW: Pictures by Nigel Sibanda