LAND IS NOT BLACK OR WHITE

Financial Mail - - BETWEEN THE CHAINS - @Sikonathim mantshantshas@fm.co.za

The most in­cred­i­ble thing hap­pened this week: dif­fer­ent classes of black peo­ple went toe-to-toe in two Gaut­eng sub­urbs and in North West over land oc­cu­pa­tion. The fight mir­rored the so­cial di­vide be­ing sown by some op­por­tunis­tic politi­cians, who con­tinue to abuse the des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion of far too many of our com­pa­tri­ots.

A group of peo­ple car­ry­ing their “homes” ar­rived in trucks in the up­mar­ket (by Soweto stan­dards) Protea Glen to erect shacks on open land owned by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Many res­i­dents came out of their bonded houses and blocked them. Fights en­sued. Blood flowed in the neat and tarred streets. The po­lice got in­volved on the side of the Protea Glen res­i­dents and drove away the in­vaders, tear­ing down struc­tures.

In the not-so-up­mar­ket Vosloorus in Ekurhu­leni, east of Jo­han­nes­burg, res­i­dents took to the streets to protest against il­le­gal land in­va­sions by shack dwellers who had erected struc­tures in their sub­urb.

On the same day, north­east of Rusten­burg in North West, a com­mu­nity that has been liv­ing in shacks since 2013 bar­ri­caded roads near Ledig, de­mand­ing houses and land. They claim the Royal Bafo­keng

Na­tion de­mol­ished their houses five years ago, as it claimed they had built on its land il­le­gally.

There have been many such in­va­sions over the past three years, mainly by peo­ple who are vic­tims of poverty and sub­jected to un­af­ford­able ren­tals in back­yard shacks. In all in­stances, the target land has al­ways been near ar­eas that of­fer job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Then Julius Malema and his EFF caught on, recog­nis­ing the des­per­a­tion of the shack dwellers and a clear op­por­tu­nity to win easy votes.

The party en­cour­aged these poor and gullible peo­ple to force­fully oc­cupy any piece of land they could find. This was a di­rect in­cite­ment to com­mit crime.

In many cases the target land was owned by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties or pri­vate in­vestors, in­clud­ing mines and farm­ers. Un­til re­cently, most land-grab vic­tims have been white peo­ple or com­pa­nies with a white face.

That was al­ways go­ing to change. The nu­mer­i­cal strength of the black pop­u­la­tion, and their ris­ing mid­dle-class ranks, mean black peo­ple to­day own more land than white house­holds. And of course many pay up to a third of their monthly salaries to live on that land. So they are not go­ing to just sit back and watch their in­vest­ments be­ing tram­pled upon — even by fel­low black peo­ple.

Po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism

Phele­lani Sin­dani is one of the Protea Glen res­i­dents who came out in de­fence of her sub­urb. “When they come they are go­ing to want elec­tric­ity and they are go­ing to put up ca­bles and steal it from us. They think we who live in houses are rich, so we will have a lot of break-ins,” she told News24.

In Vosloorus, Gaut­eng po­lice spokesper­son Kay Makhubela told the SABC: “Yes, in­deed, I can con­firm that the com­mu­nity of Vosloorus bar­ri­caded the road, protest­ing about land in­va­sion in the area. The peo­ple who are protest­ing are the own­ers of the houses in the area, who are say­ing they don’t want their houses to be sur­rounded by the shacks.”

The plat­inum-rich Royal Bafo­keng Na­tion is also cre­at­ing a mid­dle-class com­mu­nity for its more than 300,000 mem­bers. It ploughs ev­ery cent into in­fra­struc­ture for their ben­e­fit, but al­lows the many non­bafo­keng who live on its na­tive plat­inum belt ac­cess to the schools and clin­ics it pays for.

The po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunists who say land is a black and white mat­ter have an­other think com­ing. They will have to choose be­tween the rule of law and chaos, with the ac­com­pa­ny­ing vi­o­lence they have fo­mented over land. Only this time it will be black-on-black vi­o­lence, mid­dle class vs poor.

They think we who live in houses are rich, so we will have a lot of break-ins Phele­lani Sin­dani

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