DURBAN – HAMMARSDALE residents were left fuming on Monday after the eThekwini Municipality demolished more than 15 formal housing structures, without giving home owners any warning.
According to them, the land previously belonged to a farmer when they settled there in 2018. They further allege the farmer sold the land to the municipality last year, while many were already living there or had started building.
A homeowner, who asked not to be named, said her heart was bleeding after municipal officials demolished her house, in front of her. She said they came last Thursday and marked their houses with red crosses.
“I did not understand because they also didn’t say anything. On Monday, more than 20 metro police vehicles, a trailer and other municipality vehicles came and demolished our houses. They did not even bother to tell us why they were demolishing our houses, we spent so much money building those houses for them to be demolished like that,” she said.
Another resident, Muzi Zungu who had his house marked, said the municipal officials told him they would demolish his house today. The 70-year-old Zungu said he started building his house last year and had already spent more than R200 000 on the project.
“I moved in last year August and have been staying here with my whole family and grandchildren. I haven't been able to sleep because of the stress. If they come and demolish my house, I don’t know where I, together with my family, would go,” said Zungu, adding the municipality was heartless and careless about the people it served.
“The land was owned by a farmer, and they did demolish our house before. However, the municipality bought this land while we were already here. They should have made us pay, at least, for the services. People have spent hundreds of thousands of rand and yet, their houses are demolished like they are nothing. If they come to demolish this house, I will go inside and lock, they must demolish it while I’m inside. They must kill me first.”
Local ward councillor Sibusiso Ngcongco said the municipality should have at least communicated with him as a community leader regarding the change of ownership.
Ngcongco said after the houses were marked, he called the municipality and the municipality leadership and was assured no demolitions would take place until a meeting had been held.
“To my surprise, on Monday, I was told that houses were being demolished,” he said.
After a long meeting with the municipality’s Human Settlement Department, the speaker, Weziwe Thusi, Ngcongco said he was told the municipality had bought the land last November.
He said he was also shown a new title deed and the municipality told him it wanted to build RDP houses on that land.
“All along, we understood that the land was privately owned. The municipality had no right to demolish structures that were already there when they bought the land. Many people started building on that land from 2018,” said Ngcongco.
He said the municipality had suspended the demolition of the houses until further notice. Ngcongco said the speaker had advised the matter be taken to council and a decision taken.
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela confirmed the municipality’s Land Invasion Unit did attend to the area and illegal structures were demolished.
“We cannot divulge any further plans as these are highly sensitive information that cannot be shared with the public,” said Mayisela, adding land invasion continued to be a serious problem.
Mayisela said the City was trying everything possible to ensure land invasions were dealt with within the ambit of the law.
“While doing that, the City will not derive any joy from demolishing structures that are occupied and built legally,” said Mayisela.