The Pan African Congress (PAC) has denied allegations made by land occupiers in Tembisa. The occupiers claim they had to pay R50 membership fees to the political party in exchange for plots of land.
The strip of land in Esselen Park, known as Phumula Mqashi by the shack dwellers, has been occupied since 13 February, and at one stage, up to 700 people were living there.
James Nthau, an occupier, said that in March he heard that people were being given land to occupy. They were required to fill out a PAC membership form and pay R50.
“We were told to band together and join the PAC to defeat the municipality. I paid the R50 to Bheki Nyandeni, a leader of the PAC. He told us to set up here [in Tembisa] because they were campaigning for this land. A lot of us were desperate,” said Nthau.
Bheki Nyandeni, the PAC regional chairperson in Ekurhuleni, denied all the allegations levelled against him by some of the occupiers. He said he had acted in his capacity as a Tembisa community member (TEMCO), not as a PAC member, when he helped community members occupy the land.
Nyandeni said people paid R50 to join the PAC and this was voluntary.
PAC president Narius Moloto said he was aware of people who were working in the name of the PAC, who collected money from people on the piece of land. He said the R50 payment had caused confusion.
“That R50 for membership for the PAC cannot buy land,” he said.
He said Nyandeni was under a lot of pressure because of the confusion.
“These people are now sitting with an expectation and they are frustrated,” he said. “Tembisa is highly congested. People are living in backrooms, and in indecent squatter camps. Now people are looking for places where they can raise their families.”
Nyandeni said he was aware of complaints against a man known as “Ngwenya” and he had raised this with Moloto when he was still secretary-general of the PAC.
Moloto said it was unfortunate that law enforcement had been acting harshly “because they are taking away the little assets and material that these people are using to erect and settle their families”.
“We are just pleading for the people of Tembisa who are struggling… We are fighting for our rights. We want this land for free. We don’t want to pay any more money to any party,” said Nthau.
Moloto said the party had tried to intervene on behalf of the landless people in the area saying they are trying to find a balance between order and helping those who are landless by engaging in talks with the municipality.
Moloto said the PAC had withdrawn its members from the occupation and approached the municipality through Ward 8 councillor Nomthandazo Sibulawa. He said the party had also engaged personally with Ekurhuleni mayor, Mzwandile Masina, but the municipality didn’t want “to continue with people who are just squatting on the land due for development”.
“Sooner or later we will find a solution. If that municipality won’t allow them to stay there, let them get alternative space so that they can settle in a different area,” he said when asked how the talks were going.
City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe said no special attention was given to any political party, adding that the engagement with the PAC was only to “promote lawfulness and adherence to the court order.”
At the time of publishing, Councillor Sibulawa had not responded to an email.