In a bid to fast track resolution to the land grab saga that has gripped KwaZulu-Natal, eThekwini Municipality has announced that an additional R199 million will be spent this financial year to purchase three parcels of land across the city as part of their strategic plan to eliminate informal settlements.

The additional amount was approved as part of the Adjustment Budget for the 2018/19 financial year at an Executive Committee meeting which was held on Tuesday. Ethekwini Municipality’s acting head of communications Mandla Nsele, said, “This is an addition to the R25 million that has already been spent this financial year by the Human Settlements Unit to purchase land in a bid to eradicate informal settlements and fast track service delivery in communities. The approval of funding to purchase additional land was welcomed by the Executive Committee who remain committed to efficient and effective service delivery.”

The more than R200 million funding was welcomed after a spate of land invasion incidents rocked parts of the city including Clare Estate and Cato Crest. Meanwhile, in a startling turn of events, the Durban High Court has granted the eThekwini Municipality an order compelling land invaders to make representations to the court why it must not grant an order evicting them from municipal land occupied illegally.
According to the order, the community needs to be notified first and they have been given until Friday to vacate municipal land, failure which could result to eviction. EThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede, has welcomed the decision of the court. She appealed to all residents to refrain from invading land.

“We are a caring city but under no circumstances shall we allow laws to be undermined in broad day light. It is our responsibility as the city to also protect our residents that may be on the receiving end of this illicit behaviour. Yes, we do admit that our people need land more especially in urban areas with a hope of getting employment opportunities, but that does not justify land grabs. We are now moving to a stage where we are going to ensure that those invading land are prosecuted and locked up. This dents the image of our city and it has to stop” said Gumede. Gumede called on leaders from the civil society and other political formations to desist from inciting people to invade land.
“We have leaders that are taking an advantage of our desperate people. They have now turned their plight into a political football and we know very well they do not have people at heart. They want to use them to destabilise this municipality.

“We are calling upon all our residents not to heed such leaders because all what they want to do is to scare investors that we desperately need to come create job opportunities in our city,” said Gumede. Amidst the land invasion incidents, Spence Road in Clare Estate, has been a beehive of activity after dwellers tried to occupy privately owned land.

Clare Estate Action Committee (CEAC) chairman, Vincent Chetty, said land invaders cleared trees and dense bushes to build shacks as well as they occupied an abandoned duplex in the vicinity and residents were alerted to the commotion after they heard the trees being cut. “A large group of people cleared an extensive portion of privately owned land, and upon seeing that, we asked the authorities to intervene. According to the informal dwellers and land invaders, they believe that the land is owned by the council.

An emergency community meeting was held with the alleged land invaders in attendance to address the concerns of all affected parties. Sydenham SAPS officials addressed the meeting and worked amicably with both parties to resolve the issues. We, at CEAC, urge residents to remain calm as a resolution is being sought,” said Chetty.

An illegal protest on Randles Road in Overport, on Monday morning between 2am and 6am saw protestors from Georgehill Roadsettlement, Lacey Road settlement and Matlock Road settlement take to the roads with burning debris. Councillor Chris Pappas said, “SAPS, Metro Police, eThekwini Fire and local security companies were quick to respond. The protestors were demanding an audience with the mayor’s office. At 7:30am, a representative of the mayor’s office arrived, Sipho Mthethwa, to address a crowd of about 100 people. A hand written memorandum was handed over that included some of the following issues:
the need for housing by the residents of the settlements.
the need for electricity in Georgehill settlement.
the heavy handedness of the police
the desire to occupy a bushy area on Locksley Rd in upper Sydenham / Sherwood the concerns about the eight bodies found in the above mentioned area over the past five years.”

“A number of these issues have been raised with the municipality for a long period of time but there has been little or no movement. It was reiterated at the meeting that the municipality will not support any land grabs. Three people were detained and later released on warning.
There were also concerns raised by members of the community about external forces driving racial tensions, spreading false information and in other cases inciting land grabs.

Mr Mthethwa from the mayor’s office will convene a meeting with representatives from the settlements, ward councillors of the two affected wards (30 and 31) and the relevant ward committee members. A feedback meeting will be held on Saturday, 2 March,” said Cllr Pappas.