Is there a hidden agenda behind Durban's land invasions?
Peace monitor Mary de Haas said the invasions were not random acts and that there was a degree of “orchestration” behind them.
“It is getting worse,” she said. De Haas said the danger of these invasions was that like the incident in Cato Crest last week, they were near critical infrastructure like the N2, a major transport and economic artery for the city.
With the Cato Crest invasions, she said, it was the people of Manor Gardens who suffered, as the value of their houses went down and this in turn would cause the revenue the city received from rates to plummet.
What complicated matters was that the municipality was not addressing housing matters with Abahlali baseMjondolo, which represents many residents of informal settlements, but with another organisation, she said. The Daily News has previously reported that the municipality had entered into a partnership with the SA Shack Dwellers’ International Alliance, which angered Abahlali baseMjondolo.
De Haas said politicians also did not help to make the situation better as they often spoke of clamping down on land invasions, but did not act in accordance with this resolve. Part of the reason was that there were factional battles within political parties.
Abahlali baseMjondolo representatives said they also believed there was a sinister force behind the land invasions that was pushing its agenda.
Spokesperson Mlungisi Khumalo said land invaders were using the movement’s name to carry out their activities and that the land invaders in Cato Crest were being mobilised by people not known to Abahlali.
He said they were trying to prevent a situation like the one in Cato Crest and vetted people who came into their organisation.
Mayor Zandile Gumede’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Gumede, said it appeared there was a co-ordinated effort at land invasion in the city. He said there was a possibility that shack lords, seeking rent for plots and shacks, were behind the invasions.
Gumede said the city already had a task team looking at whether the invasions were politically motivated or driven by genuine social needs. The same task team would also look at solutions.
Gumede said the city viewed the invasions in a serious light: “They create more problems than solutions.”
Gumede said there should be ordered settlements as this gave the city an opportunity to put in organised infrastructure like sewage and proper roads. This was not the case in informal settlements, leading to emergency services struggling to access certain areas of the settlements.
Last week’s invasion at Cato Crest caused consternation with eThekwini residents, who expressed shock at the brazen act.
In a rare show of unity, mayor Gumede and DA councillors denounced the invasion. The municipality sought a court order to evict the invaders who have set up shacks in the area. The shack dwellers were given an opportunity until this week to explain why they should not be evicted by the municipality.
Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay said he welcomed the court’s decision. “Land invasions are a threat to social stability and undermine service delivery projects We will continue to prevail on the courts by force of argument that land invasions are not in the public interest and most often the work of criminal syndicates selling plots they have no right to.”