Bekkersdal land grabbers ‘have no choice’

Residents say the municipality has failed them and they have started 'self-governing'.

A small pile of rocks marks the spot where a Bekkersdal family has chosen to build a home on land belonging to the Rand Uranium mine. Abandoned construction materials are strewn around. Picture: Emily Corke/EWN.

BEKKERSDAL - Residents in Bekkersdal on the West Rand say they had had to resort to occupying land illegally in the township's outskirts because they are tired of being beggars in their own community.

The township has been hit by violent protests in recent months and residents are calling for their municipality to be placed under administration and for the mayor to step down.

A large group of the Westonaria township's residents have decided to self-govern and some have already started cordoning off their newly-allocated pieces of land.

A pile of rocks marks the spot where a family has chosen to build a home.

They say they plan to start constructing their new homes from Thursday.

Residents say they have completely given up on working with a government which has done little to help them.

Many have been living in inadequate housing for years and claim around 1,000 RDP homes built in the area were set aside for the families and friends of government officials.

This has pushed the community to boycott the housing and not allow anyone to move in.

The Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents Association has gone as far as setting up its own makeshift town hall in an empty building, where residents have begun registering their names ahead of moving into the vacant land.

The makeshift town hall set up by the Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents Association.

Police in the area have not stopped the process, with some actually involved in helping residents register and some even registering themselves.

Large parts of Bekkersdal are strewn with rubbish and sewage is running down the roads. Residents complain they are living too close to each other in their small shacks and temporary homes.

They want to build more permanent housing on open land near the township which is owned by mining company Rand Uranium, although large parts remain unused.

Residents say they should be allowed to make use of those areas.

The open land near Bekkersdal belonging to the Rand Uranium mine.

The association's chairperson Wanda Modise says they have the right to raise their families in better homes.

"We're not invading land. What we are doing is occupying our land that is near our township."

He says corruption in government has left them homeless in their own community.

"We think that there is lack of leadership, particularly upon our municipalities and that needs to change."

He says they have decided to govern themselves because their local municipality has failed them.

All pictures: Emily Corke/EWN.