Vusi Mzimela ( Bellair) Road bears the brunt of the protests when land invasion units demolish illegally built shacks in Cato Manor. Picture supplied.

Durban - The demand for housing from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements (KZNDHS) has grown ten fold in the province with land invasions adding to the problem. 

Martin Meyer, MPL and DA Councillor took a swipe at the KZNDHS saying there was no New Dawn’ for KZN’s homeless. He said the demand for housing is now bigger than can be dealt with. This led to land invasions being ignored.

"The failures of this Department are therefore not just system failures – they are failures of our communities, our humanity. The ANC-led government is failing our communities, and when it comes to this department, that failure is in-humane,"Meyer said. 

Meyer made the statement in general after land invaders threatened to burn the homes of Bonela residents in Cato Manor if the eThekwini Land Invasion Units(LIU) demolished their shacks again. 

This bold threat came with a physical warning, early this morning, when about two hundred people allegedly from the newly built eKanini Informal settlement marched through Blinkbonnie, Buckingham and Carnforth Roads rolling and carrying tyres which they then set alight at various intersections. 
Several homes were also stoned and damaged along Carlow Road.

The threats and intimidation against residents in the multi-cultural suburb came after some shacks were demolished by the LIU on Thursday.

The settlement spreads on a greenbelt from Carlow/Wiggins Road to the top of Blinkbonnie Road and behind the back walls of 38 homes in Carnforth Avenue and more than a dozen between a greenbelt on Buckingham and Carlow Roads.  The settlement increased from 35 shacks to more than 400.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane confirmed that the protest was about the demolishing of shacks and that water meters were damaged and two vehicles were set alight. He said Public Order Policing units are monitoring the situation. 

Msawakhe Mayisela,  eThekwini Municipality spokesperson, said the land occupied is owned by KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements (KZNDHS). The eThekwini Human Settlements unit numbered 260 dwellings but expected the number to have increased since December 2018.

The Blinkbonnie Road informal settlement is increasing on a daily basis in Bonela, Cato Manor. Video supplied.

Mbulelo Baloyi, spokesperson for KZNDHS said the land was zoned open space. 

"Land invasions continue to be a challenge in many parts of the city and indeed the country. We have noted many court cases on the matter right up to the Constitutional Court," he said.

He said despite the presence of private security  the settlement continued to densify. Baloyi pointed out that three security personnel were stabbed and assaulted in one incident. 

"There were allegations that a shack lord had been charging people R2500 for a plot of land. 

Baloyi said research conducted on our behalf by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Maurice Webb Institute has shown that about 20 percent of people in informal settlements are paying rent to someone and a further 40 percent pay for the sites on which they built their shacks. 

Zithulele Zondi, who conned 180 people shack dwellers in Cato Manor out of their cash while pretending to be a housing official,  was jailed for three years for fraud in the Durban Magistrate Court in August 2018. 

"There are a number of informal settlements who are still waiting for services. Land invasions amount to queue jumping and affect the rights of those people who have been waiting far longer,"Baloyi said. 

He added that in engagements with the representatives, there has been a breach of undertakings for the settlement not to increase in size. 

"This has also affected the commitment to arrange services such as water, sanitation and ultimately electricity and refuse removal. Engagements are continuing with all stakeholders in the matter," Baloyi said. 

The Bonela Steering Committee who spearheaded the fight to stop the settlement from expanding did not want to go on record because they had received death threats from officials previously.  

Meyer said that during the KZNDHS budget briefing to the portfolio committee they heard the same refrain time and again – ‘not enough money’. 

"The reason for this goes way beyond this Department. The government has failed to create real jobs, leading to more people needing government help to get a home, which is in turn making it impossible to provide homes to all,"he said.

A new informal settlement has now occupied this greenbelt from Carlow/Wiggins Road to the top of Blinkbonnie Road and behind the back walls of homes in Carnforth Avenue, Buckingham Road and Carlow Road. Picture Google Maps

"It is because of these failures, and because of the desperation of our people, that land invasions have become the order of the day in this province – something that both the Department and the ANC-led provincial government have failed to curb despite their negative impact on the real lives of real people,"Meyer added. 

"When people have nowhere to live and see no other option but to occupy land, this is a failure of government. When people see their properties and lives threatened, as they do in Bonella, in Cato Crest, in Silver Glen, then it is a failure of government.  In many cases the invaded land belongs to the Human Settlements Department and has been lying unused for years. This as a result of the slow pace of delivery and the department’s failure to be a responsible neighbor and take steps to protect its land, something that is also not adequately budgeted for,"Meyer added.

He said there are numerous stalled housing projects around our province. 

"Within uMngeni municipality there are Nhlalkahle in Ward 6 and Kanya Village (Cedara) Ward 7 uMngeni, which stalled 18 years ago! Imagine being a member of that community living in informal housing, having to see every day for 18 years, a half-built house and cement slabs, just lying there – a dream that never comes to fruition. This is a failure of this ANC-led government and it is in-humane. Then there is the pressure that all of these unfinished projects will put on the Department’s current budget,"Meyer said.

"It is precisely this slow rate of delivery that results in some people living in transit camps for 10 long years. In Ward 101 eThekwini, there are indeed residents who have been living in transit camps for a decade,"Meyer said. 

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