Cato Crest community members invaded a piece of land in the area, marking plots with red tape and digging trenches, in preparation to start building. Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - Manor Gardens residents are living in fear after a series of land grabs by hundreds of people who are chopping down trees, burning the forest and putting up structures.

The land invasion in Mary Thipe Road, Cato Crest, started this past weekend after an announcement that land was available there.

Residents in Manor Gardens said they felt let down by the government and now feared for their lives and properties.

As people cleared plots yesterday, a few started building structures.

At least three structures made of wood and plastic had gone up by mid-morning. Putting up structures could make it difficult for the municipality to remove the land occupiers.

At least two police vehicles were seen driving around the area. A metro police vehicle and another from eThekwini’s security unit were at the scene taking pictures. None made any attempt to stop the land invasion.

One of the Manor Gardens residents said: “We fear for our families and we have to be home by 5pm and lock up.

“There was an incident in December. We were attacked. Our water and electricity meters were destroyed and someone threw a brick through my window and hit my wife,” he said.

The homeowner said they were concerned that the municipality and police had failed to act.

“It seems like this has become political. The people have cut down the entire forest and there are people shooting there and yet the police are not doing anything.

“We respect the right of the shackdwellers, but it seems they have more rights than us. Some of the people marking plots drive top-of-the-range cars.

“If you drive that kind of a car, do you really need a shack, or they are building it so they could rent it out?” asked the resident.

He said he was already struggling to sell his house, and the land grab would make it more difficult.

“Every time a buyer learns of the location, they back away because this area is already viewed as unsafe.”

Several community members, found to be clearing sites, showed reluctance to engage with the media.

They claimed they had been hired by the “site” owners to help them clear the area in preparation for building.

EThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela did not elaborate on what the council would do about the issue, but emphasised that it had previously warned against land invasions.