Friday, July 24, 2009

Threats of large-scale land grabs

JOHANNESBURG - The Midvaal municipality is bracing itself for more disruptions as local ANC councillors continue to publicly threaten large-scale farm invasions.

Hundreds of ANC members, some apparently claiming to be MK veterans, this week staged a farm invasion in the municipality.

On Wednesday, the action spilled over onto the busy R59 – the main arterial between Johannesburg and Vereeniging.

The crowd scattered rocks and burning rubble across the busy highway, and pelted passing vehicles with stones – forcing authorities to divert traffic to and from Vereeniging. Police in Nyala vehicles and the metro police department later fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

Midvaal executive mayor Timothy Nast believes their actions are politically motivated and aimed at undermining the authority of the Democratic Alliance (DA) controlled municipalities. Midvaal claims its ANC controlled neighbour, Sedibeng, placed illegal containers on the property to accommodate the invaders and wants to legalise the occupation.

When Midvaal called in the Re
d Ants to remove the invaders and dismantle the illegal structures, local police officers allegedly refused to open a case file saying they had orders from “higher up” to continue frustrating the municipality’s attempts to act.

“The blockade was a direct result of the SA Police Service (SAPS) refusing to intervene in stopping the illegal farm invasion,” Nast fumed. “The illegal farm invasions are clearly politically motivated.

Midvaal is a DA-controlled municipality, and the ANC is trying to win more votes here by encouraging their members to invade farms in the area. What is worse is that the SAPS are supporting the invasions, by not allowing the municipality to act in terms of the law.”

ANC national spokesman Jessie Duarte has promised strict action against any ANC members inciting land invasions, providing the DA can provide her with “tangible” proof of their involvement.

Nast yesterday retorted that the illegal containers Sedibeng had erected on the site were there “for the whole world to see” – and that it clearly had no right to erect the structures on public land. Local ANC councillors promised, on SABC news, to continue the invasions, and Midvaal claims these same councillors have been spearheading meetings to plan similar invasions over the weekend.

The Springs riot squad has meanwhile pledged its assistance to the Midvaal municipality, sending them reinforcements at the request of the Red Ants.

“We’re not working through the local SAPS anymore, so that’s a great improvement,” said Nast. He said he would meet with Sedibeng today, as their representatives had boycotted a meeting between the MEC for local government and Midvaal earlier in the day.

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