City can’t move settlers, wants to build new township

2012-02-08 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality is likely to push for the development of a residential township on the private industrial land currently occupied by illegal settlers at Shortts Retreat.

This was revealed in an affidavit by municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi before the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday.

Nkosi said although the municipality is not able to make a firm proposal in that regard at this stage, indications are it “will, in time, advance a proposal which involves the expropriation of the properties and establishment of a residential township thereon”.

The municipality is asking the high court to vary a court order granted by Judge Anton van Zyl on April 7, 2011, in terms of which the municipality was ordered to “progressively” provide the 1 065 illegal occupants of the land with temporary housing, and relocate them to Ambleton (at Fox Hill on the Richmond road).

Van Zyl granted the owners of the property authority to call in the sheriff of the high court as well as police to help evict the settlers if the deadline was not met.

This has not happened, however.

Explaining in his affidavit why the deadline was not met, Nkosi (who was appointed municipal manager on January 3, this year) said when the municipality put forward the option to house the settlers in emergency housing at Ambleton, it was operating in severe financial straits and was under the control of an administrator.

“It was always made clear that the municipality could not accomplish the move to Ambleton without the full, and especially financial, assistance of the provincial government,” he said.

He said before the court order was granted, an official from the provincial Department of Human Settlements confirmed that financial assistance with the relocation would be forthcoming from province.

However, this was no longer the case.

He said municipal officials had met with head of the Human Settlements Department, Gabi Gumbi-Masilela, on January 27, this year, and he said it was her view that “relocation was not a feasible option”.

Gumbi-Masilela’s aim is to bring about a “holistic solution for all the properties in the Shortts Retreat area that involves expropriation of the properties and the planning of a multi-use, mixed-use township to be established there”.

Nkosi added further that it was the strongly held view of the illegal occupiers in question that “they will never move”.

Further, an “unforeseen obstacle” to providing emergency housing at Ambleton is that the area will require an environmental impact assessment by the Department of Agriculture, he said. This is likely to take 18 months to complete at a budget of R80 000.

The legal battle over the eviction and relocation of the informal settlers dates back to 2006.

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