Evidence is emerging of a “politically-orchestrated campaign” to occupy land in Lenasia that must be investigated by the police, Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said on Tuesday.
Authorities reported a steep escalation in land grabs in the area during the past week, saying the situation was “getting out of control” with land occupiers firing shots.
Mashaba called for urgent police intervention on Monday, saying that the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), with its comparatively limited public order policing resources, “cannot handle the situation alone”.
He said on Tuesday that the JMPD had requested provincial police commissioner Major General Elias Mawela to set up a task team to probe who was behind the occupation.
“Yesterday, I met with a group of residents from Lenasia who have demonstrated to me how these land occupations are politically-orchestrated by a local councillor … What is taking place is, effectively, organised crime and must be dealt with decisively,” he said in a statement.
“These residents are in possession of evidence which demonstrates how money is exchanging hands, and that ready made-up shacks are being issued to those willing to pay for a piece of land where the occupations are taking place.
“Those behind these occupations are being witnessed driving around the area in high-end luxury vehicles, as a testament to the lucrative nature of their criminal activity.
“I have supported these residents to take their evidence to the SAPS and the South African Human Rights Commission, so that investigations are conducted as a matter of urgency,” said Mashaba.
He said any “political agenda” of those involved in the land grabs had to be exposed.
Police were urged to take control of areas affected by the land grabs on Monday as Mashaba warned that the “situation is getting out of control”.
He said, “Residents within the area are reporting armed groups of land occupiers firing on homes in the affected areas, with the sound of gunfire being heard throughout last night,” he said on Monday.