Res­i­dents grab un­oc­cu­pied land

Fed up with hous­ing is­sues go­ing back 10 years, Mar­i­an­nridge com­mu­nity mem­bers defy of­fi­cials and po­lice

Daily News - - METRO - MPHATHI NX­U­MALO and ANELISA KUB­HEKA

FED UP Mar­i­an­nridge res­i­dents have de­cided to take mat­ters into their own hands and build homes for them­selves in un­oc­cu­pied spa­ces.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers have said they had been re­quest­ing the Hu­man Set­tle­ments Depart­ment to re­solve their hous­ing is­sues for more than 10 years. The ten­sions have re­sulted in protests and some res­i­dents oc­cu­py­ing va­cant land.

Deb­bie Mar­il­lier, of Free­dom Park in Mar­i­an­nridge, said the com­mu­nity had been ask­ing for land for more than 12 years, with noth­ing ever de­vel­op­ing. Af­ter be­ing ig­nored for a long time, the com­mu­nity de­cided to take the land as they had grown weary of wait­ing, she said.

Mar­il­lier said they had re­cently held an event for chil­dren at a lo­cal sports ground. Mem­bers of the an­ti­land in­va­sion unit who were nearby got into an ar­gu­ment with res­i­dents.

The en­su­ing con­flict re­sulted in rub­ber bul­lets be­ing fired. A 13-yearold boy walk­ing back from a tuck shop was shot in the leg, she said.

“The peo­ple are dis­heart­ened… If those guys come again, it is go­ing to be a big war,” she said.

Mer­lyn Stu­art, un­cle of Ty­heel, the boy shot dur­ing the protest, said his nephew had been emo­tion­ally drained by the in­ci­dent. Ty­heel’s grand­fa­ther had also been trau­ma­tised and had a heart at­tack as a re­sult, he said.

Po­lice spokesper­son Colonel Them­beka Mb­hele said mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials, with metro po­lice, had con­ducted an anti-land in­va­sion op­er­a­tion in Mar­i­an­nridge, de­stroy­ing shacks. Com­mu­nity mem­bers al­legedly pelted them with stones and rocks.

“Metro po­lice used tear gas to dis­perse the at­tack­ers… Cases of pub­lic vi­o­lence and at­tempted mur­der have been opened at Mar­i­annhill po­lice sta­tion for in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” she said.

Hu­man Set­tle­ments spokesper­son Mbulelo Baloyi said they were still look­ing into the in­ci­dent. He said the depart­ment worked with ward coun­cil­lor Regi­nald Cloete and a project steer­ing com­mit­tee of mem­bers elected by the com­mu­nity in all its ef­forts.

He said the depart­ment was hav­ing prob­lems with peo­ple who “jumped the queue”, took mat­ters into their own hands, and grabbed land for them­selves. Baloyi said the first time they had dealt with the hous­ing mat­ter was in July 2012, and the depart­ment had been try­ing to find suit­able land for Mar­i­an­nridge res­i­dents who had asked to live near their for­mer homes.

The depart­ment was also in the process of a project where houses in the area were be­ing re­fur­bished.

The Mar­i­an­nridge shoot­ing is not the first in­ci­dent where vi­o­lence has bro­ken out dur­ing a protest and shots have been fired to quell the protesters.

The Daily News pre­vi­ously re­ported that eThekwini’s se­cu­rity man­age­ment team went to Burling­ton Heights in Shall­cross to dis­perse land in­vaders and shots were al­legedly fired in the en­su­ing chaos, re­sult­ing in 18-yearold Siyanda Ndlovu dy­ing and Sanele Khu­malo be­ing left in a coma.

This re­sulted in the shack dwellers get­ting an in­ter­dict against the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to pre­vent fur­ther de­mo­li­tion of shacks.

Asked whether the se­cu­rity man­age­ment team was trained in crowd man­age­ment and whether of­fi­cials were au­tho­rised to use live am­mu­ni­tion in­stead of rub­ber bul­lets, eThekwini spokesper­son Msawakhe Mayisela said he could not com­ment on a mat­ter that was be­fore court.

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