Mayville residents, shack dwellers row
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The suburb of Bonela is on tenterhooks after a stand-off between residents and land invaders, which has left a house burnt down.
On Sunday, police maintained a heavy presence near the contested vacant piece of land in Mayville. On the land, which was a forested area, people were erecting shacks using corrugated iron sheets, wooden planks and other materials.
Ward councillor Warren Burne said attempts to invade the piece of land had started about a year ago, with the invaders periodically playing a cat-and-mouse game with the city’s anti-land invasion unit.
“That land is under the provincial Department of Human Settlements and is zoned as public open space. It was not built on purposefully and preserved as a green belt in the area. It has been like that for 20 years,” said Burne.
Last month, Abahlali baseMjondolo was granted an interdict by the Durban High Court preventing the municipality from demolishing, burning, removing or otherwise destroying and disposing of housing structures or threatening to do.
The applicants, who also included individual shack dwellers, were also granted permission to rebuild otheir homes on the plots they had occupied before the anti-land invasion unit destroyed them.
Burne said 30 people were granted this temporary right until September 1, when the matter will be back in court.
But Abahlali president S’bu Zikode said there were 75 shack dwellers in the court order but only 35 were able to point out their sites as they had disappeared due to evictions.
Burne said that besides the “brazen intimidation of residents… there is no water supply, no toilet facilities or electricity. In no time, they will be tapping into the electricity, creating a very unstable situation.”
He said it was unfortunate that some were turning this into a racial issue even though Bonela was occupied by all races. His fears were shared by Vino Naidoo, whose house was petrol-bombed.
Naidoo was speaking to her neighbour at the front of the house when a petrol bomb was hurled on to the roof of her lounge on Saturday afternoon.
When she turned around, the roof was engulfed in flames. She ran to the back of the house to warn two of her tenants, who were in the house, to get out.
Naidoo’s husband Ahmed Peeroo said that having lived in the house for 23 years, they got along with everyone and did not mind the informal settlement. “There is so much empty land in Bonela, so why does the government not build for them? People are desperate for housing,” he said.
Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer said residents were unhappy and wanted answers from the municipality.
“At the moment it’s in the hands of the court. Residents do not want to accept that and keep calling to report that there is building on that land, but there is nothing we can do. We asked for the court case to come forward to finalise this matter, but that was turned down,” she said.
Peer will be meeting with Community Safety and Liaison MEC Mxolisi Kaunda and Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay on the matter.