PRESS RELEASE: Demolition of Residents Houses in Lenasia
Following a meeting with the residents of Lenasia by SACP, COSATU and SANCO on Saturday, 10th November 2012, a follow-up meeting was held last night, Monday 12th November 2012, 19h00. The purpose of the meeting was to give residents a report back on the tasks that were agreed upon in Saturday's meeting.
Class contradictions in Lenasia
In our collective analysis of the situation, we came to the conclusion that the principal and strategic contradiction in Greater Lenasia are the class interests of a coalition of class forces that involves property developers and speculators, building constructors, financial institutions, corrupt government officials, commodity outlets such as car dealers, malls, food outlets and many others.
Their common primary goal is to liquidate and remove the working class and poor people out of the area of Lenasia to make way for further property development. This includes the people of the neighbouring informal settlements such as Thembelihle, Lawly and Ennerdale, who are also targeted for removal from Lenasia.
They believe that the presence of the working class and poor people in Greater Lenasia and their presence in the houses that are currently being demolished poses a threat to the value of their properties, as most of the demolished houses belong predominantly to Africans and poor people.
Our view on the common interests of this coalition of class forces stems from our observation and clear evidence that during the first round of house demolitions that took place in 2010, stands from demolished houses were immediately taken over by property developers who are currently constructing highly expensive mansions and double-storey houses. This clearly refutes the claim and lie that the demolition is intended for low cost houses.
Selective demolition of houses and uprooting of the working class and poor
During our site inspection of demolished houses, we were dismayed and disturbed to see that the demolition of houses targeted mainly those owned by Africans and Black people on the same land, leaving untouched business properties, expensive houses and mansions. We wonder what criteria were used to select houses for demolition.
We agree that indeed a court order was granted to the Provincial Department of Housing to remove the people from the land, but it should be noted that the affected residents appealed the decision of the court.
According to information provided by community leaders, it is on record that former MEC of Housing, Mr Humphrey Memezi requested residents to withdraw their appeal case in favour of a mediated political solution. Unfortunately for the residents, Mr Memezi resigned from his post before commencing with mediation and political resolution of the problem.
Simply making reference to the court order without acknowledging the withdrawal of the appeal process by residents as a positive gesture to the then MEC of Housing Mr Humphrey Memezi constitute a complete distortion of facts.
Residents also informed us that they have acquired their houses through what appeared as a normal sale process conducted by government officials who used government letter heads and official documents. The residents could not suspect any fraud and misrepresentation on the part of the officials, and trusted government, which they still trust even now.
In a recent meeting held with senior government officials of the Department of Housing, information and all relevant documents proving ownership of the houses and stands were provided. It is also important to note that some of the residents were staying in these houses for more than three years, and have proof of payment of lights, water and electricity. This is contrary to the lie that demolished houses did not have occupants.
In our meeting with the residents we noted that at least nine (9) houses were fully occupied and had vulnerable groups such as women and children.
We have compiled a list of the affected families that are still in the area. This list include Ms Nontutuzelo Lorraine Mqedlana, the brave woman who was prepared to die for her house by locking herself inside with her children and told demolishers to demolish the house with her and the children inside.
The demolishers immediately retreated and only demolished the wall of the house. We respect her for her bravery, she is the heroine of Lenasia and her house except for the wall is at least saved for now.
Proposed Way-Forward and Urgent Interventions
In last night's mass meeting with the community we resolved as follows:
1. To support the interdict brought by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), to call on the SAHRC to extend their intervention beyond court interdict, but to work with the Office of the Public Protector to investigate every single detail relating to this matter and make recommendations that should include the fate of affected residents and conduct of house demolishers.
We believe the public must hear the other side of the story told by the people of Greater Lenasia through the relevant Chapter 9 institutions. We will formally engage these institutions to hear the people of Greater Lenasia.
2. To engage the MEC of Housing, comrade Ntombi Mekgwe to ensure that irrespective of the outcome of the current court interdict by SAHRC, further demolitions should be put on hold whilst we negotiate an alternative and an amicable lasting solution to the problem.
3. We will be convening the Alliance Secretariat this afternoon at 17h00 to further explore alternative solutions to the problem and challenge facing the people of Lenasia.
4. That a mass protest will be arranged as a matter of urgency to give the people of Lenasia the opportunity to express themselves on the matter.
5. We note and welcome the postponement of the court case brought by the SAHRC on behalf of the residents to Tuesday, 14thNovember 2012. We remain fully behind the SAHRC, and strongly condemn the inhuman, dehumanising and most backward actions of the demolishers and those who uprooted the working class.
The meeting applauded and appreciated the people of Lenasia who responded positively to our call that they should not engage in any form of violent activity and rather give us the opportunity to resolve the matter using best practices of our revolutionary movement and the Alliance as a whole.
We further appeal to the residents of Greater Lenasia and Gauteng province as whole to have confidence that the ANC government of President Jacob Zuma, following in the true footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli and others is a caring and most humane government that has their interests at heart.
* Joint Press Statement: Gauteng SACP, COSATU, SANCO and Greater Lenasia Concerned Residents Association
SACP Gauteng Provincial Secretary: Jacob Mamabolo (082 884 1868)
COSATU Provincial Secretary: Dumisani Dakile (082 727 1422)
SANCO Provincial Secretary: Lucas Qakaza (082 852 4214) and
Greater Lenasia Concerned Residents Association Chairperson: Lazarus
Baloyi: 082 626 1283