By Baldwin Ndaba and Gudrun Heckl
Amid the tears and frustration that accompanied Thursday's eviction of the Bredell squatters from a piece of private land they had occupied for the past two weeks, a ray of hope has emerged.
A non-profit organisation was last night poised to launch a fund to purchase land on which the Bredell evictees can be accommodated.
Global Changes International (GCI) - formed by volunteers who strive to promote peace and positive action in South Africa - said it had proposed to open a squatters fund whereby businesses could contribute donations because it would be in their long-term interest to house the squatters.
The fund will be managed by the South African Council of Churches and independent auditors, according to Paolo Spennato, director of GCI.
Spennato explained that if there was less conflict in South Africa, the rand would be strengthened and the economy boosted. He said most of South Africa's problems could be resolved if the business sector got involved.
The positive initiative came after a particularly strong message to the Bredell squatters from Bavumile Vilakazi, the mayor of the Ekurhuleni metro.
Vilakazi yesterday told the squatters they had to go back to where they came from because there was no space for them in Ekurhuleni. He said this during a final, desperate effort by church leaders to find alternative accommodation for the squatters.
Dr Molefe Tsele, general secretary of the SA Council of Churches, said Vilakazi had told his delegation that the land under his jurisdiction in the East Rand was privately owned.
The squatters arrived at Bredell two weeks ago and supposedly bought plots from the Pan Africanist Congress for R25 apiece.
Security guards systematically demolished squatters' shacks Thursday. However, by 5pm, when it became dark, the police announced that they were suspending their operation, which was due to resume at 8am on Friday.
Prior to the suspension of the operation, a group of women had removed their tops in an attempt to halt the demolitions. Eight women were arrested on charges of public indecency.
Some male squatters brandished knobkerries and an assortment of weapons, vowing to leave the place dead rather than voluntarily.
Tsele said last night: "We could not reach a deal with the Ekurhuleni council. They were adamant that they did not have land to accommodate the squatters and that the squatters should return home."
Police spokesperson Captain Mary Martins-Engelbrecht said last night that about 700 people had resisted eviction and were still on the land.
The Democratic Alliance on Thursday allocated transport to several of the squatters who voluntarily decided to leave Bredell.
The move was labelled as opportunistic because the DA had earlier attacked the PAC over the invasions.