Durban - A Durban councillor had to flee his ward with his family on Wednesday when 500 armed land invaders turned on him and stoned his house and office as he was pleading with them to stop an illegal occupation of municipal land.
Despite police and security personnel being called in, the invasion continued and last night the invaders were continuing to use bush knives to clear vegetation.
The incident is unfolding on open land near Cato Manor Road, Rif Road and Owen Avenue and residents of nearby Manor Gardens are concerned it could compromise their property values.
Some of the invaders were living as tenants in shacks in Cato Crest until these were demolished to make way for low-cost housing.
There are also allegations that some of the invaders have received houses, but have been making a living out of letting out shacks.
Heavily armed police, metro police and private security guards were called to stop the invasion, which continued in their presence.
A policeman told The Mercury that the police and security companies had asked officials to negotiate a settlement with the invaders to avert a violent confrontation.
Mayor James Nxumalo said he was concerned about the safety of ANC councillor Mzimuni Ngiba. The eThekwini Municipality would not allow people to occupy municipal land illegally, he said.
Ngiba fled his Cato Crest home after the invaders damaged windows then proceeded to his municipal office nearby, causing more damage.
Nxumalo said the municipality was trying to raise more than R1 billion to build houses for 410 000 people on its waiting list in Durban. He would visit the area on Saturday.
The invasion started on Monday and Manor Gardens residents said some were occupying private land.
This morning I received a call from a lady who said people were cutting down trees close to her property. It is against the law to invade land, whether it is municipal or private,” Nxumalo said.
Ngiba said workers employed by a construction company contracted by the municipality to build low-cost houses had been attacked on Wednesday and had stopped working.
We had a meeting with police, municipal and provincial officials on Wednesday,” he said.
“Representatives of the invaders were also there to demand houses. Soon after the meeting I received a call that there was trouble and there was a threat to attack my house. My children had to flee. “Right now I cannot go home because I’m concerned about our safety.”
ANC members gathered near Ngiba’s house and said they would protect him.
Branch secretary Bongani Ngcobo said:
“If we allow these people to continue we will never be able to evict them from the land, which is already earmarked for more low-cost houses.”
Manor Gardens resident Njabulo Mngoma said he was concerned about the value of his house, which worth about R1.5 million.
“If people are allowed to build shacks we will be exposed to crime here,” he said.
Johann van den Berg, chairman of the local Environmental Forum, said the presence of shacks would have a devastating effect on the value of property in Manor Gardens. “Residents have valid concerns.”