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The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"There has been no violence"
 real 56k

Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Police evict SA squatters
A squatter family
A family awaits the destruction of their home
Bailiffs backed up by riot police have been dismantling the shacks of thousands of squatters from a camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

The High Court in Pretoria ordered the forcible removal of the poor and homeless people from the unused and barren land by Thursday morning.


I don't know how I'm going to move my stuff or where I'm going to take it to

Squatter and mother of three
The South African Government says it is determined to prevent illegal land occupations and has said it will use all legal means to prevent the kind of situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe from occurring here.

It is taking no more than a minute or two to take down each of the flimsy tin and wooden constructions, and the entire operation is expected to take a few hours.

No violence has been reported so far at the Bredell camp, about 20km northeast of Johannesburg.

Embarrassing

But our correspondent in South Africa Rageh Omaar says that the situation the government finds itself in is an acutely uncomfortable and embarrassing situation for them, but one that they feel they cannot avoid.

The scenes will have been an uncomfortable reminder of the forced evictions of black South Africans from their homes which were common during the apartheid era.

squatter camp
A private security firm used crowbars to dismantle the shacks
Thomas Machete, a 32-year-old labourer, told Reuters news agency: "I'm very angry with the government. I voted for that government to help me, but they haven't helped. I won't vote for them again."

He said he had already moved his two children out of the camp.

Rosa Caesar, a mother of three, appeared resigned to leaving.

"I don't know how I'm going to move my stuff or where I'm going to take it to," she said.

"We'll probably have to sleep outside tonight."

Land issue

Some of the squatters had already packed up their belongings, but say they planned to stay, even if they had no shelter.


The squatters said they were told they could move onto the land if they paid $3 each to the opposition party, the Pan Africanist Congress.

Many now refuse to move because the authorities have not offered them alternative accommodation and they have nowhere else to go.

The opposition PAC argues that the ruling ANC has failed to deliver on its promises of land, housing and free basic services and warns of rising unhappiness among black South Africans at the pace of the government's land reform programme.

They have called for an urgent summit to address the plight of poor South Africans.

The ANC accuses the PAC of being an organisation of agents provocateurs and opportunists, masquerading as a caring liberation movement.

Lawyers for the government and a private company owning the land said they were concerned about the health of the squatters if they are allowed to stay.

About 1,200 shacks had been built on the land, which is crossed by a shallow underground fuel pipe, a power pylon and a railway line. There is no sanitation or water supply.

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.

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See also:

12 Jul 01 | Africa
Eyewitness: Evicted and homeless
05 Jul 01 | Africa
SA police arrest squatters
18 May 00 | Africa
'No land crisis in SA' - Mbeki
13 Feb 01 | Africa
SA police and squatters clash
04 Oct 00 | Africa
South Africa squatters win battle
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Africa
21 Mar 01 | Africa
SA farmer wins land reprieve
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