Tempers fly as shelters fall

2012-03-28 00:00

CHAINSAWS ripped through fresh ntingu wattle poles yesterday as Msunduzi Municipality security staff tore apart extensions to shacks in Northdale.

The drastic move came after residents of Nhlalakahle informal settlement near Bombay Road breached an agreement with the municipality that they would not build extensions to their shacks.

The municipality had deemed Nhlalakahle unfit for human settlement, but had not found anywhere to relocate the residents, said municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma.

Tempers flew as angry residents exchanged insults with the municipal staff.

The people told The Witness they lived in hope that someone in power would help improve their lives.

“We have been living here for about 25 years,” said one resident.

“Mayor after mayor has promised to change our circumstances, but nothing has ever been done.”

He said the community had pinned its hopes on the incumbent mayor, Chris Ndlela, who was once a principal at the nearby Esther Payne Smith Secondary School.

Local ANC branch chairperson Thembinkosi Majola said people wanted better places to live in but had been waiting for years for the municipality to offer them an alternative.

“We don’t mind if the municipality demolishes the newly built structures because there are people selling land illegally to those who are desperate,” he said.

“However, the problem is in demolishing the extended structures of those who have been living here for years.”

Majola said the council should understand that people could not live in the same room with their grown-up children, which was why they had extended their homes.

He said the Nhlalakahle community had co-existed happily with their neighbours in formal dwellings, but had to a degree suffered under criminal elements brought in by people who had recently moved into the area.

Zuma confirmed that municipal security guards had been at Nhlalakahle this week, demolishing shacks.

“This exercise is the culmination of a process of engagement with the people, where they were warned that they could not build shacks there, but they ignored the warning and continued to do so,” he said.

Zuma said the settlers were warned several times until action had to be taken.

“It is in the interest of their safety that they are forbidden from building where they want to,” he said.

“The plight of people living in informal settlements is clearly understood, but sometimes, due to constraints, we are unable to move at the speed would like to move.”

Zuma said the municipality was working with the Department of Human Settlements and was looking at options to relocate people in informal settlements.

He confirmed that the existing structures in which people lived would not be demolished.

“We cannot remove people when we do not have a place to relocate them. But in terms of the provisions of the land invasion policy, we have to demolish mushrooming structures,” Zuma added.

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