Sparring partners

Anger of the landless erupted in Hekpoort. Scared landowners called it riots. It looked like riots. Roads closed, a chicken farm delivery truck – and other vehicles – set alight. Burned. Veld fires. Roads dug up. After 20 years of empty promises – including a laughable promise from a meeting held on 18 December 2018 that construction work for the Dr Sefularo village would begin within six weeks. Little wonder people got angry in July when there has been no sign at all of any activity towards delivering on the empty promises. Little wonder when phone calls, e-mails and attempted meetings with municipal representatives had failed. Who can question that legitimate cause sparked people to draw attention to their problem.

And in our rainbow nation, little wonder that some criminal elements as well as those operating from perhaps bigger political agendas jumped on the bandwagon and escalated things to ‘a riot’ situation.

An unexpected voice of rationality was heard when a local resident initiated discussions between the landless and landowners. At the public meeting, attended by approximately 150 landowners and up to 30 representatives of the landless, facts of the situation enlightened many worried landowners. A respected town planner explained how many meetings, letters, appeals and attempts by the community to get the promised housing had delivered no results in nearly 20 years. Most of the audience applauded when he said he would join the landless people in rioting if he could. That expression of concern captured the spirit of the meeting. Many landowners agreed. Sympathised. They started thinking like community members instead of people under attack. 

A young woman addressed the audience, describing first-hand experience of the harsh realities of living in a one-room shack with your family. Several others addressed the crowd, both landless and landowners, people whose families have lived in this valley for more than 100 years. There was a broad acceptance by landowners of the urgency and validity of the landless problem and working committee with representatives from both groups was set up. On both sides there were more radical voices expressing entrenched ideologies – but equally, on both sides there was reasonableness and a firm commitment to find a way forward. The majority in the hall were not set upon a ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ mind set.

A group of landowners had offered in 2013, at their own expense, to erect blocks of apartments on land earmarked for this but were turned down by the municipality. One landowner offered to construct a water treatment plant at his own expense, but this was also turned down.

The seller of a piece of land got R6 million, but the same land was transferred to the municipality for R18 million. Whose pockets were lined with R12 million in the process? Initially in 2012/13, R86 million was budgeted, but in the current year only R15,6 million is in the budget – and absolutely nothing done as yet! Where is the R70,4 million difference?

Follow the money! 

Find the corruption and then, find the solution.

Why should people be intimidated every election with the threat that if they do not vote for the ANC, they won’t get housing … how many elections have proved that their vote, rewarded with a T-shirt or bag of maize meal, has not created the promised development!

On the positive side, landowners have accepted that they have a role to play in assisting the broader community. Angry people who live in shacks while listening to broken promises maybe have a glimmer of hope now that the whole community is pulling together. The outcome of the public meeting was that people actually listened to each other, heard what was said, and expressed a heartfelt hope that Hekpoort can be the example for the rest of our fractured country to recover from corruption and truly build a better future. 

By Lee Maddeux

Image: Mogale City’s own scorecard from the 2019/20 Integrated Development Plan, Review of the 5 year IDP 2016-21. Scores in red awarded by Hekpoort communities

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Uownit-SA is an online publication focused on collecting and publishing valuable and informed opinions from all the people of South Africa, published on the 15th of every month. Send us your views to contributions@uownit-sa.co.za.

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