File photo: Land invasions of properties owned by eThekwini Municipality can now be stopped after officials were given legal clout to stamp out the illegal action.

Durban - Orchestrated land invasions of various properties owned by eThekwini municipality, which have run unchecked in recent months, can now be stopped. The city, the provincial housing department and the police have been given the legal clout to stamp out the action.

The provincial housing department recently secured a Durban High Court interim order, granted by Judge Piet Koen, and extended on Friday, which allows the city and the police to demolish structures and evict people who occupy or attempt to invade 37 provincial housing department properties that have been earmarked for low-cost housing or are in the process of being developed.

The order is significant in that it does not oblige the municipality to follow the provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, which stipulates that certain steps be taken before people can be evicted, which in some cases requires providing alternative accommodation.

In an affidavit, housing department senior property manager Balakazi Madikizela said an investigation had revealed that “unlawful land invasions were taking place on an extremely wide scale”.

“The target has been vacant and/or unoccupied properties within the municipality. The properties are earmarked for housing developments and other public services. The invaders seek to ensconce themselves in the properties they invade, and then expect to be placed ahead of other persons on the housing waiting lists of the municipality,” he said.

Properties in Queensburgh, Cato Manor, Mayville and Bonela have been targeted during the invasions.

In the Cato Manor case, The Mercury reported in March that more than 1 000 people – whose homes had been demolished to make way for formal low-cost housing in Cato Crest – began clearing land in Sherwood and close to Manor Gardens with the intention of building shacks. They were removed after the municipality obtained an interdict.

Madikizela said the municipality had also expressed concern about the ongoing land invasions, but were reluctant to act without a court order in place.

When the matter came before Judge Gregory Kruger on Friday, he extended the court order until May 31.

Meanwhile, the Legal Resources Centre, acting for people of the Madlala Village in Lamontville, have brought an application claiming the order was “ill-conceived”.

It argues that they were illegally evicted as per the court order in April, and that they want to be granted the right to occupy the land. They also claim that, with the Judge Koen order, the housing department wanted to circumvent the provisions of the act.

On Friday, advocate Lawrence Broster, for the Legal Resources Centre and the applicants, said the centre was attempting to identify and gather information about the applicants to ensure they were entitled to the rights they were claiming, and this process needed to be completed before the matter could be taken further.

He asked for an undertaking from the MEC and the city that, in the meantime, the applicants would not be evicted.

However, Judge Kruger said he could make no such order because of Judge Koen’s ruling.

There was also a dispute as to who was occupying the land, with two lists of names before the court.

The matter was adjourned until June 7 by the consent of all parties.

“We are relying on the good graces of the respondents to behave,” Broster said.

The Mercury