Community members have said they had been requesting the Human Settlements Department to resolve their housing issues for more than 10 years. The tensions have resulted in protests and some residents occupying vacant land.
Debbie Marillier, of Freedom Park in Mariannridge, said the community had been asking for land for more than 12 years, with nothing ever developing. After being ignored for a long time, the community decided to take the land as they had grown weary of waiting, she said.
Marillier said they had recently held an event for children at a local sports ground. Members of the anti-land invasion unit who were nearby got into an argument with residents.
The ensuing conflict resulted in rubber bullets being fired. A 13-year-old boy walking back from a tuck shop was shot in the leg, she said.
“The people are disheartened If those guys come again, it is going to be a big war,” she said.
Merlyn Stuart, uncle of Tyheel, the boy shot during the protest, said his nephew had been emotionally drained by the incident. Tyheel’s grandfather had also been traumatised and had a heart attack as a result, he said.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said municipal officials, with metro police, had conducted an anti-land invasion operation in Mariannridge, destroying shacks. Community members allegedly pelted them with stones and rocks.
“Metro police used tear gas to disperse the attackers Cases of public violence and attempted murder have been opened at Mariannhill police station for investigation,” she said.
Human Settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said they were still looking into the incident. He said the department worked with ward councillor Reginald Cloete and a project steering committee of members elected by the community in all its efforts.
He said the department was having problems with people who “jumped the queue”, took matters into their own hands, and grabbed land for themselves. Baloyi said the first time they had dealt with the housing matter was in July 2012, and the department had been trying to find suitable land for Mariannridge residents who had asked to live near their former homes.
The department was also in the process of a project where houses in the area were being refurbished.
The Mariannridge shooting is not the first incident where violence has broken out during a protest and shots have been fired to quell the protesters.
The Daily News previously reported that eThekwini’s security management team went to Burlington Heights in Shallcross to disperse land invaders and shots were allegedly fired in the ensuing chaos, resulting in 18-year-old Siyanda Ndlovu dying and Sanele Khumalo being left in a coma.
This resulted in the shack dwellers getting an interdict against the municipality to prevent further demolition of shacks.
Asked whether the security management team was trained in crowd management and whether officials were authorised to use live ammunition instead of rubber bullets, eThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said he could not comment on a matter that was before court.