Durban - The construction of temporary housing on land behind formal homes in Crossmoor continues despite an uproar from the Chatsworth community.
The eThekwini municipality is building 50 homes for April’s flood victims whose homes in nearby informal settlements were washed away. More than 20 units have already been built.
Despite a meeting at the Chatsworth Police Station with eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda on Sunday, the community felt they were blindsided by officials.
The Crossmoor Steering Committee said Jay Ramlal, secretary of the Crossmoor Civic Association, “was compelled under duress and without proper warning” to attend an informal meeting with Kaunda.
“Ramlal and the civic was not allowed to record this meeting and all of the attendees were asked to switch their phones off and the phones were taken away. There was no notice of the meeting, no formal agenda nor an attendee list for this meeting,” an email about the meeting read.
Community activists said they were not against the project, but believe that proper public participation did not take place for the development of the transit camp. Concerned residents who held a placard demonstration against the camp last week later received death threats and intimidating voice notes. Tensions continued to spill over until the meeting was set up.
Chatsworth councillor Previn Vedan said many observers and other concerned groups had received distressing calls from hundreds of residents and other stakeholder actors in Chatsworth, other parts of Durban and elsewhere. Vedan said an incorrect image had been created of informal settlement residents being criminals.
“Persons that make threats of violence and intimidation on social media and in groups will be dealt with going forward and action will be taken against them,” he warned.
Vedan said site inspections were conducted throughout Ward 71.
“The site of land in question was identified based on it adjoining the informal area. This was practical having regard to distances to their places of school and work. There was no evidence available that the site in question was ever zoned for a community hall or clinic,” he said.
Vedan said tensions had now been created in the community. A social cohesion team would be formed to look at activities to eliminate racism.
Residents feared that the camp would allow the informal settlement nearby to spread and soon occupy the land around the temporary houses.
Vedan said a committee of the flood victims would be established to manage the site. “People that are against the construction of the temporary housing must be clear and honest about their intentions and not abuse the process to position themselves for the 2021 local government elections,” he said.
Vedan said all present at Sunday’s meeting were requested to switch their cellphones off and leave them at the front of the room.
“We all did so, including the mayor himself. No one was prevented from taking their own notes at the meeting. It is an offence to record any person without their permission,” he said.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said some of the affected families were initially provided with temporary accommodation in nearby community halls, and later moved into a tent less than 300m from their destroyed homes in the Bottlebrush informal settlement.