The Mpumalanga provincial government and the Mbombela Local Municipality must take the blame for the demolition of houses in Msholozi near White River where families were left homeless.

At least 18 structures, including shacks and brick houses, were demolished on Tuesday in the area where residents are accused of illegally occupying private land belonging to the Matsafeni Trust.

Many of the people have been illegally staying on the land for over three years and the municipality and the provincial government knew about it, but did nothing to help them with an alternative settlement.

In May this year the community was called into a meeting and served with an eviction notice, but they ignored the Sheriff until the demolition.

Some of the residents claimed that they illegally occupied the land after Julius Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) went public ordering people to take over any unoccupied land they find.

The ANC-led government must take the blame for this as thousands of people in Mpumalanga have been on the waiting list of housing for years without any direction from the Human Settlements Department and their respective municipalities.

Currently the housing backlog in Mpumalanga is standing at 197 156 houses with little indication of any form of turn around to speed up housing delivery in the province. The Human Settlements Department has continued to spiral out of control – plagued by financial mismanagement and a lack of political will.

According to the 2016/2017 Annual Report of the Department, they have spent their entire budget that financial year under MEC Speedy Mashilo, but only created 12 593 housing opportunities: these includes 9 281 serviced sites and only 3 672 housing units.

It is estimated that the housing backlog in Mpumalanga might take up to 28 years to eradicate. But that is too much for the many people who are in need of housing.

As much as the DA understands the people’s need for housing, we would like to urge them to stop occupying and building houses illegally in private or municipal land.

The DA calls on the Mpumalanga provincial government to find alternative accommodation for the Msholozi people whose houses were demolished. We would also like to urge government to speed up housing development so that illegal occupation of land and demolitions can be avoided.