DA councillor Heinz de Boer said the matter had the potential to destabilise the city and needed to be nipped in the bud before it became worse. He said it was becoming more prevalent and there seemed to be a concerted effort to claim land.
Mayor Zandile Gumede said there had been rumours that ward councillors were not answering their cellphones when there were emergencies in the area.
“I urge all councillors to assist residents regarding land invasion. There are also allegations that some councillors are encouraging people to claim land. We are taking these allegations seriously and will deal with those councillors who are found to have encouraged land invasion,” she said.
Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer said the city’s land invasion unit had been overworked for the past two years.
As executive committee members were discussing land invasions, Cato Manor residents were carving out plots near Mary Thiphe Street (Cato Manor Road).
Metro police went to the scene in the afternoon and asked the invaders to leave. People left, but returned to the plots and continued to build as soon the police had gone, while some sought out plots to build on.
A leader of the people clearing the land said they took over the plot because they had been asking for it for more than six years.
"We decided to take the land as we don’t want it to be taken away by people from uMlazi and Lamontville who previously invaded land that was promised to those of us who live in the area.”
The woman, who did not want to be named, said they had complained to the municipality for years and decided to take the land themselves because their pleas had fallen on deaf ears. She said they were prepared to go to court to fight for the land.
Residents of Manor Gardens across the road expressed concern at the developments.
Malcolm Kirk, who has lived in the area for about 30 years, said he was worried about the building of shacks as it would send their property values tumbling.
Kirk, 75, said he would have no problem with RDP houses as that would entail organised construction.
“I feel for them, but there is a right and wrong way of doing things,” he said.
Kirk, who has been shot in a house robbery, said he feared crime would surge in the area.
Ward councillor Mkhipheni Ngiba’s cellphone went unanswered when called by the Daily News on Tuesday.
Human Settlements Department spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said he was aware of the matter and the department had gone to the area on Tuesday to talk to residents, who had told the department they planned to get surveyors to look at the land.
Baloyi said the land belonged to the municipality, but they would keep an eye on the matter as they had a zero-tolerance policy towards land invasions.
ANC executive committee member Mondli Mthembu said they were dealing with the land invasions. He said areas that were invaded were sometimes already earmarked for development. The building of houses and roads was thwarted by the invasions, he said.
Mthembu, the human settlements head for the city, said they had set up a committee of wards, including Chesterville and Cato Crest, to look at ways to counter challenges such as shack lords who played a big role in land invasions.
He said opportunistic elements would use land invasions to further their goals as they expected the government to be soft on them as elections were drawing close.
“We will come up with a strategy to deal with them,” Mthembu said, adding that they had held discussions with Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay about the invasions.