Durban land invasions grow in number
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In recent months, Shallcross, Greenwood Park and Mariannridge residents have been fighting off invasions and the illegal occupation of land.
The eThekwini Municipality said more than 150 people from an area near Mariannridge had attempted to unlawfully occupy land in the vicinity of Mercury Lane on Sunday.
Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the ward councillor addressed the invaders and they agreed to leave.
“Upon their departure, they were accosted by local residents who insulted them and threw stones. They were then escorted away from the area,” Mayisela said.
He said land invasions were not just a law enforcement problem, and that the city had adopted a multifaceted approach to deal with the issue.
“In an effort to supplement capacity constraints for dealing with land invasions, the city has partnered with a private security company to assist in dealing with the unlawful occupation of land,” he said.
Mayisela said the city discouraged land invasions and that efforts would be made to stop or reduce such actions.
The Department of Human Settlements and Public Works said land invasion hampered orderly, planned housing developments.
Department spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said land invaders were queue-jumpers.
“Municipalities often have to prioritise them whenever new housing developments are being planned.”
Baloyi added that land invasions were more of an urban phenomenon than a rural one.
“In rural areas, most of the land is under tribal control and ownership via the Ingonyama Trust,” Baloyi said.
He said land invasions had not escalated to the extent they had three years ago because municipalities had more anti-land invasion units.
The department said they emphasise zero tolerance towards land grabs and invasion in public platforms.
Nomzamo Zondo, the director of Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri), said that in most urban centres the increased land occupation had been caused by the need to access livelihood opportunities in the bigger economic hubs and the slow delivery of subsidised housing.
Zondo said the lack of market regulation had led to a private market that could not provide for the majority.
She said the acquisition of land in rural areas had a unique set of challenges where land was not completely held in private hands.
“As a result, you are not faced with an exclusionary market and people can obtain land within their financial means,” said Zondo.
Zondo said she doubted that land occupations had been increased by the ongoing public debate on expropriation without compensation.
She said Seri had not come across any community grouping that mixed the two concepts.
“Most of the communities that we represent have been excited about the prospect of expropriation without compensation because of the potential for redistribution of urban land,” said Zondo.
She added that the communities that Seri represented had moved on to vacant land because they had nowhere else to go.
Zondo said they had been priced out of the private market, both in relation to property ownership and rental.
“As a result, informal settlements and land occupations are the only way that the majority of South Africans can access the housing market and obtain shelter,” she said.
Meanwhile, the DA has described EFF Free State chairperson Mandisa Makesini’s comments about land invasion during a media interview as illegal and irresponsible.
DA leader in the Free State Legislature, Roy Jankielsohn, said it was alleged that Makesini had encouraged members of her party in the Free State to occupy and expropriate farms for their 70 EFF councillors and other marginalised people.
“The EFF are aware of the reason for land reform failures and are using this in a populist manner to garner political support by unravelling social cohesion and undermining reconciliation in South African society,” said Jankielsohn.