Land invaders descend on municipal property

By Mercury Reporters Time of article published Feb 25, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - More than 1000 informal structures have been built in the Cato Crest area since the re-emergence of illegal land invasions in the volatile Mayville informal settlement two weeks ago.

In response the eThekwini municipality has taken a hard line against the invasion and obtained a court order against them.

While the city was grappling with the Cato Crest land grabs, shack dwellers desperate for land have been marking sites on vacant municipal property near Locksley and Loon roads in Sherwood last week. However, the site is demarcated as a Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D’Moss) area and no construction should take place on it.

Yesterday in Cato Crest the situation was calm with the invaders expected to respond to a Durban High Court order which was granted on Friday.

In terms of the order, the land invaders need to make representations to the court why it must not grant an order evicting them from the municipal land they have occupied illegally.

Failing which, the order states that the community has been given until this Friday to vacate municipal land or face eviction.

Ward councillor Mzimuni Ngiba said more than 1000 structures had been built by Saturday.

He said while the community was willing to heed the court order, they warned that they would not tolerate any outsiders taking the land as they believed most of the land that should benefit those living in the area had been taken over by outsiders.

A homeowner in Manor Gardens, who asked not to be named, said yesterday that those invading land left shortly after learning of the court’s decision.

“It’s dead quiet. There were people who came in the morning and dropped off building material, but since then there has been nothing.

“There was no burning or chopping last night (Saturday). We actually had a good night’s sleep,” he said.

He said the situation was “sad” as there were people who genuinely needed a house but were falling victim to “landlords”who wanted to build shacks for rent.

eThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said on Saturday the municipality had announced through loudhailers that it had secured a court order stating that people must leave by Friday.

He said should the people feel they had a strong reason to remain in the area, they should appeal and inform the court by March 1.

Meanwhile the Sherwoord CPF vice-chairperson, Satish Dhupelia, said residents in the area were trying to deal with a land invasion in Locksley and Loon roads.

He said residents had been hearing trees being cut and bushes cleared in the early hours of the morning for the last week. Dhupelia said they contacted the city’s Land Invasion Unit and metro police to intervene.

Over a hundred shack dwellers and residents gathered at the park opposite the Georgehill informal settlement on Saturday evening for a mass meeting with the ward councillor to discuss land invasion and the way forward.

Dhupelia said those who were marking the area told them they were tired of waiting for the government to provide proper houses for them, and were being forced to find new land for shacks.

“We understand their frustrations and we also want them to have decents homes with electricity and running water, but it is not our job to be engaging with the shack dwellers. The municipality needs to step up and look after their properties by placing guards at the sites.”

Ward councillor Chris Pappas said the vacant land on Locksley Road was a D’Moss zone and hence no construction was allowed there.

Dhupelia said the residents had been conducting walks through the vacant land daily.

“At night the shack dwellers come to clear the area, during the day they mark the areas for their shacks, and in the afternoon, we go in and remove the markings. This is a daily occurrence for the past week,” he said.

In a recent appeal, eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede urged residents to refrain from invading land.

“We are a caring city but under no circumstances shall we allow laws to be undermined in broad daylight.

“We do admit that our people need land, more especially in urban areas, with a hope of getting employment opportunities, but that does not justify land grabs. We are now moving to a stage where we are going to ensure that those invading land are prosecuted and locked up.”


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