14 July 2024 | 12:29 AM

A new tragedy is threatening at Marikana as residents occupying low-cost housing have vowed to resist eviction at all costs.

Key Takeaways

Picture: Marikana Extension 2 low cost housing. (Tabelo Timse, amaBhungane)

Residents occupying low-cost housing in Marikana Extension 2 are preparing themselves for “war” should the police come to “their homes” to remove them. A potentially violent showdown is looming after the Mahikeng high court gave residents their marching orders on July 22, 2016.

The North West department of housing took the community to court and they were given until September 19 to vacate the properties.

Most are workers at the nearby Lonmin platinum mine, whose failure to provide adequate accommodation was criticised by the Farlam Commission into the 2012 massacre.

Now the housing department insists the units built on land donated by Lonmin are destined for other beneficiaries.

“Our brothers who were shot and killed on 16 August 2012 paid for these houses with their blood. These are our houses we are not going anywhere,” said Napoleon Webster, a community leader.

“They [police] will have to also kill us but they must [be] warned this time they won’t catch us off guard.”

“Residents’ side of the story”

Residents have applied for leave to appeal against the decision at the Bloemfontein Supreme Court of Appeal because, Webster claims, the court ignored the “residents’ side of the story”.

Meanwhile, provincial housing spokesperson Ben Bole said the eviction notice was in force and should the community resist the move the “order entitles the sheriff to request assistance of the police to take necessary steps to ensure implementation of the order”.

North West police spokesperson Colonel Sabata Mokgwabone did not respond to amaBhungane questions on whether there were contingency plans should there be a violent confrontation.

According to Webster, residents moved in after community members who had been waiting for houses for many years saw people not from Marikana moving in and ANC members being allocated homes.

“When we requested to see the beneficiary list the municipality refused, even at court they never let us see that list. We then made our own list because we are from this area and we have been fighting for houses all these years,” said Webster.

Bole said the process remained transparent in particular in Marikana as the department called a meeting, which was well attended by residents.

“We read the list of beneficiaries to them and they confirmed their presence, everybody was happy,” said Bole.

“There is nothing to talk about”

However, the conflict seems intractable as the community and department are refusing to speak to each other.

Webster said the department and Lonmin, who were both aware of their complaints regarding the beneficiary list, never bothered to talk to them.

“There is nothing to talk about, they went to court first. All we want now is title deeds and municipal services such as electricity,” he said.

On the other hand Bole said it has always been the department’s wish to engage the illegal occupants, “but unfortunately due to volatile situation we could not, hence the matter is handled by the courts”.

To show their defiance, the community has renamed the area as “34 Mambush” in honour of the miners shot by police and Mgcineni “Mambush” Noki, the slain protest leader who wore a green blanket during the 2012 strike.

The red brick houses are also painted with the occupants’ surname outside with red paint to mark the territory.

The houses are two-bedroomed units and have running water but no electricity.

It remains unclear whether there would be alternative accommodation for the families as Rustenburg municipality did not respond to amaBhungane’s e-mailed questions.

“Very close community”

Meanwhile it is evident that the residents have settled at “34 Mambush” township – during the day the township is relatively quiet with few people walking the streets and greeting those sitting outside “their” houses, enjoying the sun. In the evening the streets come alive as mineworkers return from work and children are playing in the streets. There are spaza shops and hair salons.

“We are a very close community because we all fighting for one cause… our obstacle is the government and Lonmin just like in 2012 where they were in worked together to murder our brothers,” said Mzolisi Mbulawa, another resident.

Although the community is united, the allegations that the houses were allocated to people based on their political affiliation have fuelled suspicion and mistrust.

“We all know each other here, it is easy to spot a stranger… we don’t want people or even cars we can’t identify just roaming around here… we will ask you who you are and what do you want,” Mbulawa said.

He said when the community took over the houses in January they held a community meeting where it was decided that each family should contribute R100 for legal fees and transport. Last month it was decided that each family should contribute R250 for the appeal case.

“We will fight them each step of the way… when they sent the police to issue the eviction notices to each house, later that very same day we gathered and marched to the police station and burnt those notices right there,” Mbulawa said.

The tension dates back to January when national housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu along with provincial government officials handed over two fully furnished houses to elderly couples as part of a ribbon cutting ceremony.

President Jacob Zuma was also billed to attend the handing over ceremony but according to media reports he abandoned the event after he was warned that there were community members who were planning to voice out their unhappiness over the allocation of houses.

Webster said many residents viewed the allocation of the houses as an ANC campaign ploy ahead of municipal elections.

The debacle has also heightened tensions between the ANC and EFF as Marikana has been a political hot potato for the ruling party since the August 2012 killings.

The EFF won the ward after last month’s local elections.

“This issue is between us and Lonmin”

Most mineworkers who moved in illegally are under the impression the houses were being built for them, following a 2013 announcement that Lonmin had donated 50ha of land for the project.

Some community members say that at the core of the current conflict is Lonmin, which had promised its workers and their families homes.

“To be honest this issue is between us and Lonmin… again they are refusing to take any responsibilty for their mess,” said Webster.

His sentiments were echoed by another resident, Portia Seheri, wife of a miner who said Lonmin management came to visit them at their former squatter camp after the massacre.

“It was some time in November 2012 when Magara [Lonmin chief executive Ben Magara] told us that Lonmin was going to build houses for mineworkers. The following year (2013) when we arrived from Christmas holidays Lonmin called another community meeting and told us there were three show houses each with different designs that we could look at and see if we liked them,” Seheri said.

However, a few weeks later the community heard through the media that Lonmin had donated land for a housing project.

“This did not bother us because we were told that the houses would be for mineworkers. It is only when the allocation started and we noticed that people we don’t know were moving in and only a few mineworkers,” said the mother of five.

No comment

Housing is a specially sensitive issue in Marikana.

According to a recent Amnesty International report, while the deaths at Marikana were the focus of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, it also considered the context in which the events of August 2012 occurred and specifically the horrendous housing situation and living conditions in informal settlements around the mine.

The Commission found that Lonmin had failed to adhere to the terms of its Social and Labour Plan with regards to housing, and that the company had created an environment conducive to tension and labour unrest by not addressing the housing situation in Marikana.

Amnesty accused Lonmin of providing false or misleading information to its shareholders and stakeholders about progress on the housing situation at Marikana, which it brands as minimal.

Lonmin blamed the tough economic conditions and cited some advances, especially in the conversion of hostels into family and single flats.

Webster accused Lonmin of again creating an environment for conflict.

Lonmin did not answer amaBhungane’s questions on its role in the conflict and its plans to address the housing crisis in the area.

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism produced this story. Like it? Be an amaB supporter and help us do more. Know more? Send us
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