CHRISTMAS is the season to be merry. It is also the season for land invasions!
When landowners are on holiday, they are generally not in a position to chase away hordes of people erecting shacks on their property.
By the time they get the police, 48 hours have elapsed and the first roof is on a shack. Then the land owner has to spend at least R80 000, not to mention many months, evicting the invaders legally through the courts.
Early on Sunday, a property owner near Lanseria Airport noticed a collection of cars and bakkies at the side of the road.
A crowd of 100 people had moved on to a vacant piece of land owned by the Mogale City (Krugersdorp) council, which intends to develop it into properly serviced Cosmo-City-type housing. This piece of land had previously been invaded but, thanks to the vigilance and persistence of neighbours, a court order had been obtained in October 2007 to prevent the type of land invasion that occurred on Sunday.
On Sunday, the police superintendent of Muldersdrift was pulled out of church to address the problem. Local ANC ward councillors tried to intervene but were chased off the site by aggressive invaders.
The police summoned the Johannesburg Serious Crimes branch and the riot squad, who used to be known as Red Ants. The Johannesburg Metro Police and a private security firm bolstered the resistance.
Said the property owner: “There were enough uniforms to be taken seriously by anyone.”
The court order was presented again and the invaders were given an hour to leave the property. A little rain dampened spirits and the squatters left peacefully by 16h30. Once again the site is empty, apart from hundreds of poles and sticks, laid out in neat lines, which would have marked potential stands.
The property owner said he sympathised with the plight of the invaders.
“The courts always put the humanitarian argument. They say the squatters have nowhere else to go – but the big question is: where do they come from?
“This crowd seems to have grabbed the opportunity to move from Hartbeespoort Dam closer to Jo’burg.
“Local property owners are all in favour of organised developments, such as Cosmo City – but the informal settlements are a cancer on the landscape. They are ugly and squalid. They are cesspits of crime and potentially of disease. They also kill property values.”
There are several lessons for property owners on holiday:
- Keep your eyes open. If you are not there to watch, brief those who are looking after your land and make sure they have instant contact.
- Only a landowner can lay a complaint, so stand by to fly home if necessary.
- Report any unusual land activity especially on Sundays and during the Christmas and New Year period. That is because the landowner has only 48 hours or until a shack roof in which to have the invaders summarily chased off.
- Get local land owners organised. Make sure all rate payers have the phone number of ward councillors and the police handy.
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* David Carte is a top financial journalist with Moneyweb, Realestateweb’s parent site.