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Buyani

Finetown, in Grasmere, is about 40km SW of Johannesburg and was historically a station on the railway line from Johannesburg to Vereeniging. There were perhaps 50 houses owned by white people on land with fruit trees.

From the 1960s the apartheid government tried  to establish areas for different racial groups, and it expropriated these properties for Indian use as Lenasia spread southwards.  In the early 1980s there was uncontrollable  urban migration from failed homelands and farm evictions, and homeless people squatted on this land and rented in the backyards of the houses..There  were constant arrests for trespassing as well as demolition of shacks and seizure of belongings. The Black Sash, Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre and the Witwatersrand Network for the Homeless provided support for the people squatting in Finetown to organize against the constant attacks by   police and, in 1987, the army as well. . The sustained resistance through legal defence finally brought about a halt to the arrests  in late 1987.   Finetown with Phola Park (adjacent to Thokoza) were the first settlements in the region to be legalized (meaning people were not forced to move elsewhere), and there were no more arrests and evictions.

 

The number of shacks in Finetown grew from 75 in 1986 to over 1500 in 1990.   In 1992 the Transvaal Provincial Administration developed the area into a legal informal settlement of 4000 sites with basic services (taps in the streets) and a few high mast floodlights.

 

Since 1995 Finetown, (now region H) has been incorporated into the city of Johannesburg.  Very few main roads are tarred, the majority is gravel, rocky and water rutted. Some storm water drains have been built, and basic refuse removal services implemented. Municipal offices, a clinic and a park have been constructed. RDP housing has been started. The Province has built two primary schools in addition to Buyani, which is independent, and there is also an independent high school. There are few community facilities or economic opportunities. Most residents are unemployed; there are low key economic activities such as scrapyards, taverns, spaza shops, hairdressing salons, etc  There are a number of mosques and churches in the area.

 

Finetown has been overlooked in the allocation of tenure for land. (Site occupants in other informal settlements established later than Finetown such as Vlakfontein and Ivory Park, have received title deeds. Buyani Trust still does not have title deeds for the property of  its school which has served the community since 1990.

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