By Krishnee Naidoo
She was reading about a house on fire on Tait Place in Bonela on social media and questioned which house, not knowing that her room and all her belongings had been ravaged in the blaze when land invaders petrol bombed the property.
Dimple Harrikissoon, single mum to her four-year-old son, said she was permitted to leave work early on Saturday by her employer following the tense situation in Bonela and two taxis later, she was dumbstruck when she saw the house she lives in, gutted.
Speaking to the Weekly Gazette, Harrikissoon said her toddler son and landlady, Vino Naidoo, escaped injury by inches. The two other tenants in the house had to break their way out of their room as the fire raged around them.
“I was shocked when I saw the firefighters on scene. I was told that land invaders had allegedly misaimed and somehow a petrol bomb landed on our roof. The situation is very tense in Bonela at the moment. I lost everything in the blink of an eye. Thankfully my son, my landlady and the other tenants were saved from harm. Housing appears to be a big issue and now we are indirect victims too,” said a distraught Harrikissoon.
On Tuesday, Howell Road residents and police clashed as violence broke out when eviction action was implemented. Stones and rubber bullets ricocheted whilst tear gas filled the air. The company who manages the housing project on behalf of eThekwini Municipality enforced the eviction notice which was met by resistance from renting residents who unleashed their dissatisfaction through violent attacks. The residents claim that they are forced to pay rent for the RDP houses which they inhabit.
Meanwhile, eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede condemned the land invasions taking place in the city. Speaking at an Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday she said the City is facing a serious challenge of land invasion which she feels is politically driven.
“We need to find solutions to deal with this matter to ensure it does not stop development in the City. We urge communities to desist from land invasions as this undermines our plans for development. We will continue to look for solutions in dealing with this matter,” she said.
Mayor Gumede said the issue will be championed by Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer through the Security and Emergency Services Committee which she chairs.
“We need a report on land invasions so we can deal with this matter decisively. This may include strengthening the Security Management Unit who may need more staff. I trust that our officials will assist and that the Deputy Mayor will overcome this issue that we are faced with.”
Mayor Gumede added that some land in eThekwini belonged to the province and that the city was entitled to enforce and ensure that the land is safeguarded. She said if any official was implicated in the land invasion issue, they would also be held accountable.
Metro chairman of Health, Safety and Security, Des Moodley said, “The local councillor in the area is attempting to assist the residents in their course of their plight. Sadly, evicted residents became victims of crime when their displaced belongings were stolen by opportunistic criminals believed to be from the nearby informal settlement. Accommodation also proved to be very difficult to secure for the evicted residents who were left homeless in the bitter cold. The spirit of humanity compels us to assist fellow humans in need.”
Questions of fairness were raised as the process was seen to be inhumane. “At the moment there are residents at court waiting for a court order to get a hold on this eviction so that misunderstandings about rent can be negotiated,” said DA Councillor for the area, Hassan Haniff.