Public Eye (South Africa)

Land invasions continue

- Chris Ndaliso

Northdale residents are at their wits' end with land invaders moving back to build shacks in the area.

The invaders have already been moved off the property twice this year before they could build their shacks. Now, a few structures have been completed on the piece of land bordering the Old and New Greytown roads near Bakerville Heights.

A resident, who asked to remain unnamed, said at first they had a problem with illegal dumping, but about five months ago, the invaders started to build their shacks.

"Crime has escalated and residents don't feel safe anymore. This invasion affects our property values. We were told that the invaders are from another ward and this means that on top of our own informal settlement­s in our ward, we have to contend with another settlement," said the resident.

"They have no water and sanitation installati­on, and this will result in water and electricit­y theft.

"With the illegal dumping comes vagrants searching for anything that they can sell, and this is a recipe for criminal activities like house break-ins. We are not enemies of the invaders. We are only against the manner in which they conduct themselves including the theft of water and electricit­y from the nearest paying residents," he said.

One of the invaders, Moegeti Mabusela, said his family was renting a shack in the Swapo informal settlement before moving to the vacant land a few months ago.

"I could not afford the monthly rental because I have no permanent job. We found this vacant place and now I have a roof over my head. We have not heard from the municipali­ty, the councillor, or those who are said to be the owners of this land. We just hope we can be left alone because we deserve roofs over our heads," said Mabusela.

Ward 30 DA Councillor Rachel Soobiah said the invasion of the land has been a concern for some time. She said she has had numerous conversati­ons with different people on the matter but no solution seemed to be forthcomin­g.

"In one meeting we held at Mountain

Rise Police Station we agreed that the owners should seek a court order against the illegal invasion. There is not much the municipali­ty can do because this is private property. I'm planning to liaise with the municipal lawyers to see if there is anything that can be done in dealing with the illegal invasion of land," said Soobiah.

She said privately owned land like this made it difficult for the authoritie­s to deal with the proliferat­ion of informal settlement­s.

Public Eye understand­s that some of the owners of the land are over 80 years old and some are in Europe. One of the owners, Heeran Salligram, said their plan was to sell or develop the land. He said there are 49 plots around the school (in the area) and three plots at the top of the hill.

"As for the informal settlers, we are dealing with them through the courts. There is a court order we are seeking against them. Everything else in terms of the plans for the land is in the hands of our estate agent," said Salligram.

IFP councillor in Msunduzi, Thinasonke

Ntombela said land invasion presented a number of challenges for municipali­ties.

Ntombela said in the case at hand, the land owners were wrong by not securing their property, while the invaders were also wrong as their actions were illegal.

"There's a never-ending land issue and people want houses. Whoever owns land must secure it if it has not been developed yet. This, however, does not make the illegal occupation of land right," said Ntombela. Msunduzi municipal spokespers­on Ntobeko Mkhize said the residents' concerns were justified.

"Should those people be left on that land there will be vandalism of infrastruc­ture, theft of water and electricit­y.

“There will be service delivery protests once those occupying the land illegally start settling on that land. Once the landowners get a court order against the occupants, it will be the municipali­ty's burden to find accommodat­ion for them. It is for this reason that we urge landowners to secure their land or work with us to carry out operations to remove the shacks before the situation gets out of hand," said Mkhize.

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