A shack's in my yard - and it's hacking my water
Exasperated Ivory Park resident Lindiwe Nkosi says she and her neighbours are struggling to communicate with the land occupiers
Good fences make good neighbours, and for a community in Ivory Park in Midrand the reverse of the analogy is played out almost daily.
Thabang Matseba remembers how she grew up eating peaches from a tree in their backyard.
But today that same tree and her mother’s storage shed have been claimed as the front yard of a new neighbour. Their new neighbours are Black First Land First members, who have demarcated patches of land for new stands.Since the start of the year, the empty land behind their home has been occupied by BFLF members. The Ivory Park community has up to now used sections of this kilometre-long stretch behind their houses for different purposes, including gardening. The community also built a structure for church services.
The Matsebas, and their neighbours on the 1km stretch of road, are in a tense standoff with the group who have erected close to 100 shacks right behind their homes, and taken down their fences and walls to make space for new 10m x 20m stands.The group has also allegedly connected illegally to the electric poles in the original residents’ yards and has tapped into the water supply.
Lindiwe Nkosi, who has lived in Ivory Park for nearly 30 years and who is also affected, said they struggled to communicate with the land occupiers, who she claimed harassed them and behaved “forcefully”.“They claim that we have extended our yards and that the space where we have extended belongs to them,” Nkosi said.
“We went to the mayoral office and submitted a petition notifying them about these things and we opened cases with the police reporting this issue [but nothing has happened].
“We even informed the councillor, and she’s scared of these people.”But the BLF chairperson for Ivory Park and one of the occupiers, Patrick Khule, said the complaints by residents were untrue.
Khule said they had made the municipality aware of the occupation and that many of the people who moved in were original residents of Ivory Park and deserved to be there.“What they are saying is just a lie,” he said.
“They are even happy that there are people this side because [there was a lot of crime here]. Some of their children are even here too. There are just a few people that are against people staying here.”
Ward councilor for the area Rohisibe Matsamela said she was not made aware of the occupation prior to it taking place. She added that she had never met with groups leaders.Matsamela claimed to have been attacked by the new occupants and that her office was broken into in October.“I wasn’t aware [of the occupation],” she said.
“They must do the right thing and follow the procedure to get the land.“I have reported it to the regional director [of housing], so it’s their job to do their job. My job is to report.”Spokesperson for the City of Johannesburg Bubu Xuba said the settlement was illegal in terms of the city’s bylaws.“We were not aware that Black First Land First organisation is on a crusade to encourage people to illegally occupy land in this city and consequently we have not engaged with them on the matter,” he said.Xubu said the city had notified Eskom and Johannesburg city water to remove all illegal connections.
Khule said while they were willing to engage their neighbours on any issues, they would not be leaving the area.
“This land expropriation without compensation must go on and it’s not going to stop now. BLF is just supporting [that]. People are pissed off. They want land.”