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Neigh­bours of Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) leader Julius Malema have re­sponded to his con­tentious pub­lic ut­ter­ances en­cour­ag­ing land grabs by oc­cu­py­ing open land in Seshego out­side Polok­wane in Lim­popo.

Ward 13, which cov­ers the land in ques­tion, is led by an EFF coun­cil­lor whose party is the only one in the province pledg­ing its sup­port for the new squat­ters – who a few weeks ago have moved on to the empty land.

Those oc­cu­py­ing the land are re­it­er­at­ing Malema’s ut­ter­ances in which he en­cour­aged peo­ple to oc­cupy land as part of his party’s call for land to be re­turned to his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple.

Ad­dress­ing his sup­port­ers two weeks ago af­ter his court ap­pear­ance in Bloem­fontein on charges re­lated to the Riotous Assem­blies Act, Malema en­cour­aged land­less peo­ple to oc­cupy empty land on the grounds that “the Free­dom Char­ter said you must oc­cupy the land wher­ever you choose”.

“I will never kill white peo­ple. We are ask­ing po­litely that they re­turn our land ... If not, I can­not guar­an­tee peace,” he said.

Lim­popo EFF sec­re­tary Jossey Buthane has said: “The land is not for dec­o­ra­tion. If it is not used, it must be oc­cu­pied.

“We sup­port th­ese peo­ple 100% for oc­cu­py­ing this un­used land and we’re ready to fight side by side, to­gether with th­ese peo­ple, against any el­e­ment that may seek to dis­turb their pro­gramme of oc­cu­py­ing the land,” Malema said.

More shacks are mush­room­ing daily on the edges of Seshego Zone 1 Ex­ten­sion, all the way up to Matlala Road. Most of those asked by City Press if they knew who owned the land said it was owned “by some white man”. Oth­ers ad­mit­ted that they were em­bold­ened by Malema’s state­ments to oc­cupy land.

“Call it what­ever you want, but for me this is not land-grab­bing or il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of land. Rather put to use a piece of land that has re­mained un­used for decades,” said an un­em­ployed Themba Mo­lon­goana. “We have lived crammed in small houses. I could not wait for an RDP house any longer, while the Johnny-come-latelies got houses be­fore us,” Mo­lon­goana added. He sat out­side his shack in the blaz­ing heat, un­der the awning pro­vided by a small, pro­trud­ing part of a cor­ru­gated iron sheet from his hap­haz­ardly assem­bled roof. One of the first to oc­cupy the piece of land, he was tak­ing a break af­ter he had swept his small yard, al­ready cleared of the weeds.

“This is my home now,” Mo­lon­goana said. “I am hop­ing to build a proper house for my fam­ily right here, one day when I have a job,” he told City Press.

“We have re­ceived a let­ter from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity ask­ing us to leave, but we won’t. We were evicted from land not far from here by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity be­fore, but not this time around. All we need from the govern­ment now are ba­sic ser­vices be­cause they have failed to pro­vide hous­ing.”

Polok­wane mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesper­son Mat­shediso Mothapo con­firmed the land was pri­vately owned. He said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity al­ways acted when­ever a peace of land was in­vaded but “fol­low­ing a call by the EFF to grab land, the sit­u­a­tion has changed”.

“What il­le­gal in­vaders should note is that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has not planned and bud­geted for any ser­vice pro­vi­sion on the land they oc­cupy il­le­gally,” Mothapo said.

He said Polok­wane had about 65 000 peo­ple in its data­base who wanted hous­ing.

“Cur­rently, there are three town­ship es­tab­lish­ment pro­cesses that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has ini­ti­ated to deal with set­tle­ment is­sues in Seshego. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted, the three projects can yield be­tween 3 000 and 4 000 sites,” Mothapo said.

GO OC­CUPY Jossey Buthane

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