FIREFIGHTERS assess the damage to offices at the Cogta department in Mayville yesterday. Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - Anarchy reigned in Cato Crest and Mayville when offices of the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) were set alight by arsonists in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The department is now offering R100000 as a reward to anyone with information leading to the arrests of those responsible.

Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said the prefab building, in Buro Crescent off Jan Smuts Highway, which was destroyed, served as office space for Cogta officials and Traditional Leadership support.

“A preliminary assessment of the damages to the park homes that have been burnt to the ground is in excess of R17 million. The figure does not include critical documents. Such wanton destruction of government property cannot go unpunished. We will see to it that the perpetrators are brought to book,” said MEC for Cogta Nomusa Dube-Ncube.

A number of protests reached boiling point over the past two months as land invaders in the area continued to build housing structures on vacant land.

Almost daily, the city’s land invasion unit, metro police and SAPS have been demolishing illegally built shacks, leading to violent confrontations with the land invaders.

City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said municipal officials had tirelessly tried to speak to the land invaders, urging them to follow proper channels to have their grievances heard.

Mayisela said the violence in the area had reached its maximum and the city was genuinely concerned about the state of lawlessness.

“We have tried to speak to the land invaders. We pleaded with them to stop the violence.

“Now, we have no option but to let the authorities arrest and deal with those who choose to take the law into their own hands,” he said.

Mayisela also urged the group’s leaders to provide leadership and refrain from inciting violence in the area.

KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor, Mary de Haas, said it was clear that there were people “directing” these acts of violence from the outside.

“There is a hidden hand at play here. I am amazed that we pay so much for security at government buildings, yet nothing was done to prevent this attack,” she said.

De Haas probed why there were no precautions taken to prevent the attacks in the area, given that it had been unstable and volatile for more than a month. She questioned why the police’s crime intelligence unit did not warn nor prepare for the attack.

“There must be more proactive action taken by authorities. We cannot sit back and watch anarchy reign on our communities and government entities.

“Their acts are unforgivable and we cannot rule out that there is a deliberate instigation going on in Durban,” she said.

King Goodwill Zwelithini, speaking at the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders in Ulundi, northern KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, also blamed police intelligence agencies for failing to prevent the setting alight of a government building.

“Police find it hard to do their job because people who should be collecting intelligence information are non-existent,” he said. “Where are the intelligence (agencies) today when government facilities get gutted?”

He said the latest incident had led him to realise that his intervention was needed into the widespread invasions.

“The incident has shown that there is a weakness on the side of intelligence agencies. The royal household and traditional leaders will come up with a lasting solution,” said the king.

According to police, the fire broke out shortly before midnight.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said a case of arson was being investigated by Mayville SAPS.

Gwala said when firefighters were trying to extinguish the fire they were stoned.

Dube-Ncube said that on Tuesday protesting community members from Cato Crest and Cato Manor targeted the Cogta office and blocked Jan Smuts Highway and Bellair Road with burning tyres, logs and stones.

“We condemn this direct sabotage of state infrastructure in the strongest terms. The destruction of government property will ultimately have dire consequences for innocent residents who rely on government services.

“We are calling upon the law enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of the perpetrators of this dastardly deed.”

Dube-Ncube has called on surrounding communities to come forward with any information to assist the SAPS to apprehend of suspects in return for the reward.