United against invaders

2014-08-22 00:00

THE Woodlands community came out in numbers on Wednesday evening to oppose land invasions in their suburb.

It was a highly emotional meeting, where some community members had to be talked out of being confrontational.

The chairperson at the meeting, Alfonso Jasson, who is also a school principal, kept appealing to the crowd that packed the Woodlands Civic Centre for calm.

“Whoever is going into the bush, count me in,” said one member of the audience. “If we don’t protect ourselves, who will?”

Many residents took the opportunity to express their anger over the alleged neglect of the suburb by the council.

“The municipality failed the residents in the area,” said one, while another called out, “Show me a good story about Woodlands.”

A community member who said his name was Errol complained that solid houses were being allowed to be built in the established informal settlements nearby. Yet if he went ahead and put up a structure the municipality would force him to break it down.

“How come we live by one set of rules and the people in the informal settlement by another,” he asked.

Meanwhile, a woman who identified herself only as Josette warned about the illegal electricity connections. “I can stay next to anybody,” she said. “If you want to stay in Woodlands, you are welcome, but pay your way.”

Former councillor Francis Grantham warned the gathering not to play the race card. He said if they did they would lose the opportunity to get to the root of the problem which was a lack of housing.

Grantham asked the community if they had spoken to residents in the Site 11 informal settlement.

“You will find that the invaders are not from there and that they themselves are against what is happening.” Grantham urged the community to get together and apply for housing.

The meeting ended with various options being considered, including forming a committee of concerned citizens, getting more members to join the area’s neighbourhood watch and signing a petition to send to the municipality.

• nalini@witness.co.za

THE Woodlands residents plan to hold a peaceful protest outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court today.

The municipality is returning to court because the land invaders have not obeyed an interim court order to stop building and to vacate the land.

This is pending the finalisation of the municipality’s application to stop the land invasions. The interim order was granted while the invaders obtained legal representation.

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