Juju Valley: A land example for other farmers

Residents of Juju Valley, Limpopo, say they are happy living on land which they say was donated to them by the old owner.

The informal settlement Juju valley in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

POLOKWANE - You will know when you enter Juju Valley. Tar roads give way to neatly-planned but vague dirt roads, which see few cars. The gaps between the silver corrugated iron homes are spacious, and even allows for flowers and vegetable gardens. It has a somewhat more relaxed, rural atmosphere compared to Seshego’s neighbouring, bustling ward 13.

Driving in from Chris Hani Drive, a red elections poster on a handmade fence around a large plot and shack, with EFF leader Julius Malema’s face on it, proclaims: Son of the soil.

An elections poster of EFF leader Julius Malema on the fence of one of plots that belong to a resident of Juju Valley in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

Just opposite the road is a large structure that covers more than half the plot it’s on. It’s Mavhendeni Tavern, one of four or five taverns that serve the over 400 households here, and one of the few places with decent toilets – comprising of two outside long drops.

Co-owner Mashilo Semenya (46) has been an EFF member since the party started. He was one of the branch leaders and is also actively contributing to the community by sponsoring the local under-14 and under-21 soccer teams. He came to Juju Valley when it started in 2016 because he struggled to get a stand from the municipality.

WATCH: Juju Valley: A 'role model' for land owners

“As you can see, I’m old enough already. I was staying in the location and looking for stands. We went to the municipality, and they said they didn’t have space. The EFF leaders said they are taking land here without compensation, so we joined the EFF here so we can have a place to stay,” he said.

He said there are no ANC supporters in Juju Valley. “When we were occupying this land, the ANC was fighting us. They said: ‘you will not get support, you will not get services’.” So the EFF went ahead and occupied the land.

Downhill from the tavern lives councillor Oupa Ramaphoko, variously described as a father and a husband to all by resident Tebogo Mantsena, a forty-something single mother of two.

Tebogo Mantsena, a resident of Juju Valley, filling her containers with water. Juju Valley lacks basic services such as running taps. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

Ramaphoko’s big black EFF-branded bakkie was in front of a community office in ward 13, next to Juju Valley, but his work prevented us from seeing him. Matsena said Ramaphoko lives with the people of Juju Valley, and suffers with them.

“It’s the councillor that takes the money to buy some food for those people,” she said. “If he got some money, he goes to buy them some mieliemeal to cook in their house. A lot of guys, they don’t work, so they depend on the councillor for food.”

They also depend on him to fight for jobs for EFF members because, Mantsena claimed, an EFF T-shirt is a barrier to finding a job here.

Ramaphoko has a long drop in his yard – at R740 an expensive structure to erect, so these are rare. Residents have to ask permission if they need to use it.

“We are like one family, one family for EFF. We know all of us, we work together like community. We know all of us, we can say we are one. Our father here is Oupa Ramaphoko,” she said.

The home of Tebogo Mantsena, a resident of the informal settlement Juju valley. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

EFF members in Juju Valley have to fend for themselves, and Ramaphoko is their fighter.

“The ANC can’t help us with anything. They help themselves, where they are staying. They can’t help you if you are an EFF member. They will tell you straight, ‘we can’t help you’. They say ‘go to Ramaphoko, he will help you’. They can’t help us. That’s no secret, it’s the truth.”

She said there’s no school or clinic in Juju Valley, so if someone got sick at night, Ramaphoko and his bakkie have to help. “He can’t say ‘I’m a councillor, I won’t go’. He takes the car and takes that person for the clinic at night. Maybe it’s two o’clock, 11 o’clock, one o’clock. This guy, he suffers for us. And even the wife, she can’t say, why you take my husband at night? I can say Ramaphoko is the husband for those people, because he takes care of us.”

EFF supporters posing in Juju Valley, an informal settlement in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

Ramaphoko’s actual wife was outside their shack, washing heavy bedspreads by hand in the bare yard. Even though residents say Ramaphoko suffers with them, his property has certain privileges, such as being near one of the 10 taps he helped build in the community. His plot also snuggles up the adjacent ward 13, where at night the light from the matchbox RDP brick houses illuminate the row of houses he and his wife live in. A long, white lead connected somewhere in between these houses brought electricity to a washing machine outside the house. It’s for washing clothes, the wife explained.

Mantsena, who does occasional piece work, said she came to Juju Valley because where she lived, it was crowded. “To us, to stay in Juju Valley, we are so happy, because we know we can call this my house. It’s not like we can go and rent some houses somewhere because we are not working.”

She said in some families there are eight or 10 people, which means some would have to sleep in the kitchen, and others in the dining room.

“You can’t sleep like that, that’s why we come here and stay in those houses,” she said.

Residents buy the building materials from hardware stores, and local volunteers help them to put up the homes in exchange for money and food.

Mantsena says it’s “100% safe” in Juju Valley, even for a single woman.

“We are looking out for each other. If you see something here, all of us were supposed to go and see what will happen there. You see, even this one, she stays alone,” she says, pointing in the direction of the neighbour, pottering in the garden. “No child, no man, she doesn’t have any problem. Me, I stay there with my baby girls, my children, but I can’t say I’m scared because I know nothing will happen for me.”

A child plays soccer in Juju Valley, an informal settlement in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

Could Juju Valley be a successful model for local land redistribution? It is built on farm land, donated by the family members who inherited it when their father died. EFF provincial leader Jossey Buthane said the family gave half of their total land to the community, but they had nothing in writing to prove it. A representative of the family said by email the Juju Valley settlement currently is illegal and informal, but there is an understanding that the shacks will, in time, be replaced by proper homes.

Juju Valley, an informal settlement in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

“We are involved in the development of an integrated housing development,” he wrote. “The project has been in process for many years. During this time we have engaged with the community at many different levels to ensure we meet as many of the needs of the local Seshego population as possible.” He said local ward councillors, the municipality and the province cooperated in this. “With all of them, there is one common goal: community upliftment.”

He has plans for “multiple housing types to meet the demand in the area”, as well as schools, churches, and other community focussed services. “General [labourers] and subcontractors will be from Seshego, who will be trained for and employed by the development.” The municipality has been slow in providing water, sanitation and electricity services, so the landowner says there are plans to do these privately.

Polokwane Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng said the municipality understood the issue differently. She said its last interaction with the landowner was in 2016, when people started settling there. The municipality notified the landowners via email. “They responded they have not permitted anyone to stay in the land, so will start with an eviction,” she said by phone.

The last interaction that time was about finding a sheriff to evict people, she said. “[The landowners] mentioned also that this property, he planned to use it for his own purposes, but he didn’t indicate what. Then the EFF came to council officially and said they have a donation,” she said. “And my response was very simple. As a municipality we can’t go into your house that is private property without permission, until he’s put it into writing to us.” To this day, she said, there’s not been anything in writing, and that is why the municipality couldn’t install water, sewerage and electricity in the area.

Juju valley, an informal settlement in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

But EFF Limpopo leader Jossey Buthane said they don’t need anything in writing, because people now live there and can’t be moved. “Twenty-four hours have passed long ago, so if you take those people out, you must tell them where they are staying in terms of the law. So there is nothing that will go wrong, nothing. But this [landowner] is a good guy, and he must be an example to other farmers that that thing is possible.”

Buthane said the landowner gave the community the part of the land that he wasn’t using, and he helped the community get settled. “How does a person go from donating a land and zone it for you – how does this person come back and give you trouble? Out of his own free will, there was no violence, there was no fight. He just said ‘look, I agree with your views’ … It’s a proper human being that, so you cannot expect a problem from this guy.”