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The BBC's Peter Biles
"The squatters are determined to stay"
 real 28k

Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
SA police arrest squatters
Armoured police vehicle
Police and squatters clashed in February
Police in South Africa have arrested about 70 squatters on land near Johannesburg, a day before the Pretoria High Court is to hear the government's application to evict them.

The squatters put up no resistance and there was no violence, police spokeswoman Mary Martins-Engelbrecht told the Reuters news agency.

Thousands of poor black South Africans have moved onto the land since the opposition Pan Africanist Congress began registering claims for the sum of 25 rand - about three dollars.

It's even more wrong when a political party which is in parliament is encouraging land invasion

Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza
The government charges that the PAC is aiding an illegal land grab, while the opposition party said the land "belongs to Africans".

The government has launched a legal application to evict the squatters, but it has been postponed in the High Court until Friday.

Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said the PAC had behaved irresponsibly.

"It's even more wrong when a political party which is in parliament and has been part of drafting the law is encouraging land invasion. It cannot be acceptable," she said.

Ownership dispute

Local PAC chairman Silis Rini challenged the government assertion that the occupation was illegal

No one owns the land - it belongs to Africans

Local PAC chairman Silis Rini
"No one owns the land. It belongs to Africans," he said.

He said that about 7,000 people had paid to register plots since 22 June.

The government, two farmers, the national transport company Transnet and the national electricity company Eskom own the land northeast of Johannesburg where squatters have been erecting shacks.

The squatters who were arrested are scheduled to appear in the local Kempton Park Magistrate's Court later on Thursday.

Land distribution is a highly charged issue in South Africa, where the white minority still owns much of the best land seven years after the end of apartheid.

But so far there have been no repeats of the large scale and often violent land occupations in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

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13 Feb 01 | Africa
SA police and squatters clash
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Africa
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