Pictured above: An overflow mass meeting of Bapsfontein residents, after the leadership committee met with the private landowners.
By Max Rambau, CORC
We had no idea what this meeting would be all about as it was called by the landowners of Bapsfontein without any indication of what would be discussed. We thought that it was going to be a report-back to the community.
After we had each introduced ourselves individually, the landowners indicated that they had thought we were from the Human Rights Lawyers and had wanted to discuss with us about the intimidation they had received from the Ekurhuleni Municipality. They informed us that they had received a ‘Directive’ letter from the office of the City Manager of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality which was only addressed to ‘Whom it may concern’.
According to the landowners this letter was advising them that in terms of the Disaster Management Act no persons are allowed to squat/reside on the property.
The owners indicated that they have been the owners of the Bapsfontein for the last four years when they bought the farm. They informed us that the people were already on the farm and that they do not have a problem whatsoever with the people living in the area. However, they expressed their sadness about what they are seeing now is sad as they were seeing families being split, with the females moving to that area and the males staying behind. They also indicated that they were the ones who had called in the media when the so-called relocations were carried. They told us that from the little information they have there were no sinkholes and the area was dolomitic either on this farm which they bought and that even if there were, why was it that these affected only the black people in the informal settlement and what about the white people staying in the area. They indicated that there is a hotel, taverns, bottle, houses in the area but they had no problems.
They also informed us that the area is 42 hectares and that the area to which the municipality was relocating the people to is only 20 and cannot accommodate everybody. They said that they were aware and had been informed by the municipal officials that there is close to R16 million that was invested towards the relocation.
The landowners indicated that they suspected that what Government was really after was the water in the farm. They also told us that they were awaiting a geotech report about this area. They said that this report would be available in a week’s time
They were however concerned that the “Red Ants” were also destroying their property and they were hoping that the Human Rights Lawyers would help them in this regard.
We requested the landowners to write a report stating all what they had said about the Bapsfontein area and to also include the geotech report so that we can wage a united front on this matter.
Community report –back meeting
In the evening the ISN and committee went on to give a report-back to the community on the arrested community members as well as the meeting with the Ekurhuleni municipality.
It was reported that, of the 28 arrested community members, 20 were out on bail of R500 each and a 17 year old minor was released into the custody of the parents. 7 people are still in prison as they could not afford to pay for their bail amount.
The community agreed to raise funds to pay for bail for the remaining community members.
The report on the meeting with the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Council Speaker was received well by the community and they indicated that they had hope that something was being done about their plight and they could not sleep as they did not know what was happening.