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Mashatile believes Hammanskraal residents thought they occupied the land legally

Mashatile says he's trying to find out how so many people were allowed to settle before eviction orders.

Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Paul Mashatile has halted evictions in Hammanskraal. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Paul Mashatile says he believes residents in Hammanskraal when they say they were under the impression they had moved onto land legally.

Mashatile visited the area this afternoon and suspended evictions after two days of confusion and violent demonstrations that have left two people dead and several more injured.

Residents claim they were given permission by an African National Congress councillor to occupy the land.

The MEC says the forced removals have been called off.

"We will count the people properly and ensure that those who have been settled there for a while we look at an orderly development for them."

Mashatile says he's trying to find out how so many people were allowed to settle before eviction orders were given.

"You have left people to settle until it becomes 3,000 to 5,000 shacks then you suddenly want to demolish. We will deal with demolition because when we see land invasion today we deal with it."

GAUTENG GOVERNMENT APPOINTS TEAM TO DEAL WITH HAMMANSKRAAL EVICTIONS

The Gauteng provincial government has appointed a steering committee to deal with the aftermath of the forced removals in Hammanskraal.

He says government now understands that residents believed they were living on the land legally when they started occupying it last year.

LISTEN: Journalists chased away by angry Hammanskraal residents.

Mashatile says the steering committee will be helping those who were evicted move back to the area.

Community leaders in the area say they're pleased with the outcome of today's meeting with the human settlements MEC which should put residents at ease.

Community leader Fortune Mathabathe says the meeting has cleared all confusion residents had about their future in the area after being informed they were occupying land illegally.

"At least now we understand our position as the community and we also understand the position of government on the matter."

He says while the deaths of two people on Monday is unfortunate, residents had no choice but to protect themselves and their homes.

"We were defending ourselves because we had people who were coming from nowhere, shooting at us and we didn't know what was happening."

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