by Everson Luhanga for Scrolla.Africa

This was once a soccer pitch in Tembisa where young and old gathered to train, play and watch the beautiful game.

Weekends were abuzz with vuvuzelas and the roar of cheering supporters. But not anymore.

The once loved soccer ground in the Kopanong Section of the Gauteng township has been turned into a squatter camp.

Some shacks have taken the pitch’s centre circle, some are in the 18-yard box and some shacks are outside the pitch as if they were supporting their team.

Residents said they have occupied the land as it was initially for development and claim they had gone through the right processes to secure it.

Speaking to Scrolla.Africa from their new settlement, leader of the community Tshepo Chidi said he and 69 other people have been fighting to secure the land since 2016.

“This is not an illegal occupation. This is about people who don’t have a place to stay who have been on the government RDP waiting list since 1994,” said Chidi.

“We are here because we have been authorised to occupy the land. This was an open government place that we have secured legally.” He said no one owned the pitch.

“One man had poles, the other one had a net and a third person was painting the lines. They were all being paid for what they brought to the open space,” he said.

Chidi said the leadership had a court interdict that prohibited anyone from removing or evicting them.

“This is the second court interdict the court has given us. It prohibits anyone from taking action to illegally and forcefully remove us.” He showed Scrolla.Africa the court papers.

Another community leader Rendani Ravhanga said the first court interdict didn’t stop authorities led by the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) officials from removing them.

For the past two years, the officials removed and demolished their structures more than six times.

“People laughed whenever the police trashed our structures but we are happy now that the highest court in the land is protecting us from harassment and embarrassment. We won’t be pushed over,” he said.

Phuti Mashala said he has been in all offices to secure the land and they are happy that finally they have it.

“At least people will have decent homes. As you can see, they are old people who have waited forever just to get a piece of land to build a house,” he said.

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