James Nxumalo eThekwini Metro Municipality mayor. File picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu

Durban – eThekwini wants to use private security to help its land invasion unit combat illegal occupations – and it is willing to bypass regular tender processes to obtain their services.

“In the past few days, land invasion has been prevented in Umlazi – next to Mega City – Cato Crest and in a lot of other areas,” the city’s deputy manager for community and emergency services, Dr Musa Gumede, told Exco on Tuesday.

“The land invasion unit has worked together with Metro Police and SAPS but their resources have been stretched. The trend is that invasions take place during the weekends and after hours, requiring people to work overtime, whereas the Unit only works eight hours a day,” said Gumede.

He said that the land invasion unit also lacks trucks “to assist in disposing of the materials used to build, and therefore a need to capacitate them after hours and with the vehicle required”.

Recommendations included city manager Sibusiso Sithole being “mandated to investigate and engage private security on an emergency basis to complement the land invasion unit” and “the use of S36 of the Supply Chain Management Policy for procurement of these procedures”.

(The Section 36 policy allows the city to appoint rather than put out to tender to acquire services deemed an emergency. It is a controversial policy and the city’s usage of it is currently being probed by the Public Protector, with opposition parties claiming it is used to give lucrative contracts to politically connected businesses.)

It was also recommended that Sithole would report to Exco on the “financial implications” of the endeavour and that he “assists with trucks to collect and dispose the material used in the erection of informal structures”.

The head of the city’s legal department would be mandated to take legal steps to prevent any further invasions.

Deputy mayor Nomvzo Shabalala said it was imperative that the city “act swiftly” when invasions were reported.

Councillor Zwakele Mncwango of the Democratic Alliance said the city manager should be “commended” on the endeavour, especially as local government elections neared because there was “no doubt that some of these invasions are triggered by politics.”

e said he believed there would be more invasions “because of politics” and because some parties supported “that kind of chaos in certain municipalities”.

“There is no doubt the red ones will be invading all over the city,” said Mncwango, presumably a reference to the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Councillor Heinz de Boer, also of the DA, said that besides the financial implications of private security being utilised, it would also be necessary to take cognisance of how private security sometimes operated on a national level, often outside of the bounds of best practice and preferring their own “internal rules”.

He said the company that was chosen to assist with curbing land invasions had to “march to the tune of the city” and realise their role was one of assisting the already established land invasion unit, in accordance with council policy.