Land occupiers demand cheese factory site

We have nowhere else to live, say EbuMandini residents

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Photo of protesters
Protesters outside the Cremona Cheese Factory demand to be allowed to settle on vacant land owned by the factory. Photo: Zoe Postman

About 50 residents of EbuMnandini, an informal settlement in Tshepisong in the west of Johannesburg, protested outside Cremona Cheese Factory on Monday morning. The residents demanded that part of the factory’s vacant land be given to the community for an informal settlement.

The owner of the land, Antonio Cremona, filed for an eviction order in April after the residents tried to occupy the land. The case was heard in the South Gauteng High Court and an interim eviction order valid until September was granted.

Some residents tried to occupy the land on Friday last week but the Johannesburg Metro Police Department demolished their shacks on the same day. The residents retaliated by setting one of the factory’s buildings alight.

The factory was secured with private security guards and dogs when GroundUp visited the area on Monday. Four police vans were parked outside the factory while the residents picketed.

Ward councillor Sylvia Monakale says she has received death threats from the occupiers. “They have threatened to burn my house and my office. But I stand firmly against these land grabs. Anyone who is involved in arson and damaging property should be arrested,” said Monakale.

“We cannot wait until September. Because when September comes, they [the court] will postpone again and we need land now … We have nowhere else to live and we cannot afford to rent,” said one of the occupiers who asked to remain anonymous.

She said she was unemployed and had three children to support. She is paying R350 rent per month but she can no longer afford it. “I also want my kids to have a home that they can call their own,” she told GroundUp.

“This land has been vacant for about 23 years and there is no sign of development. We need this land for housing now…we are not asking anymore because we have been patient for 23 years”, she said.

Another occupier who also asked to remain anonymous said the land was a “graveyard”. He said criminals hid in the long grass and people had been murdered and raped in the field.

“This factory is in a residential area, so people walk through this property every day. It is not safe especially for the kids. There is no fence or security guards patrolling, so it’s basically training grounds for criminals,” he said.

Both occupiers said that Councillor Monakale had not addressed the community about the housing issue.

“The councillor is working with the factory but she doesn’t care about us. She says they want to build a shopping centre and housing but we don’t need that. We need land to build our shacks,” said one of the occupiers.

But Monakale told GroundUp that she had met with the leaders of the occupation and told them that she was opposed to the land occupation. She said she “condemns the land grabs” by “people who are not even from EbuMnandini”. She said most of the people involved in the land occupation were from surrounding areas.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

We all need a place to call home, but demanding a piece of land is totally wrong this is just the same as demanding bread at a bakery because you cant afford to buy it.

I do understand that we don't have lot of job opportunities in SA but why other people be involved in their problems, now that they were getting violent how do they plan to get the land in violence. How do the people working there get involved.

These people damaged the property, stole items of the workers in the factory so really how do the workers get involved. This is no longer about the land, this is crime. They stole while protesting and damaged some things in the factory. It had nothing to do with the land.

Dear Editor

The "building" they set on fire was my sister's home, not a building. They first threw rocks at her and her children (4 year old boy and 11 month year old girl) through the windows at them and then proceeded to petrol bomb it while they were inside and had them running for their lives. They KNEW she and her kids were in the house when they did this The hid in the factory in which they surrounded and tried to break down with them inside. My sister ran with her children as they were. No shoes on, the boy had no shoes and no shirt. They burned everything to the ground. All their stuff was in that house. Everything they owned is destroyed. So logic is "its not ok to rape and murder but its ok to burn people in their homes" We ran in panic to get to her as fast as we could and picked her and the kids up in Kagiso. She didn't even have shoes. They took everything she owned and burned it. Its a miracle she got out with her life. We thought we were going to have to pick up dead bodies. This is not land grabbing. This is crime.

GroundUp Editor's Response

Dear Jayde Jamison

Thanks. We ran a follow-up story on the burning down of your sister's home.

We apologise for leaving it out of this story; we were not aware of the details at the time.

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