Residents angry over land grab, ANC councillor denies involvement

2014-06-23 00:00

NORTHDALE residents are up in arms after people invaded vacant municipal land with the intention to build shacks in the middle of their suburb.

The residents of Sharjah Road woke up on Friday morning to find people clearing vegetation and burning it on a vacant plot of land just below their houses. The people were apparently planning to put up shacks on the land.

The land is encircled by the suburb and adjacent to a football field that those hoping to build were already using as a pathway.

A resident called the municipality to put a stop to the possible construction. On Friday afternoon, a municipal security vehicle was parked in the area and a handful of officers stood and watched proceedings.

The officers could not act until structures started going up. The land invaders were subsequently removed.

One of the local residents, Venolin Govender, said they were told by people invading the land that ANC PR councillor Rachel Soobiah and another ANC Youth League leader had given permission to build on the land.

Soobiah denied any involvement in the land grab.

Govender said they were concerned with another informal settlement being erected right in their back yard. “We do not want another Nhlalakahle here,” he said.

Nhlalakahle is an informal settlement in Northdale that has been there for the past 20 years. It has caused problems in the past related to illegal electricity connections.

Govender said an informal settlement so close would destroy their property values. “There is also a safety concern — there would be illegal electricity connections that would kill the children.”

He said the people he spoke to said Soobiah had given them permission to build. “The residents are tired of her, tonight [at 9 pm on Friday] they will call a meeting where they will ask her to leave this area.”

Govender said what was most disappointing was that some of the people grabbing land were not homeless.

“Where were these people six months ago? We know some of these people, they have homes. If these were homeless people, then obviously a plan would have to be made for them.”

Soobiah said land grabs were illegal and she had no part in what happened in the area. “I want this on record. I am not a ward councillor, I have no power to give away land and I did not give anyone permission to build there.

“I distance myself from anything that has to do with this … I do not have any power to give anyone any permission to do anything. I view these allegations as being politically motivated.”

Yesterday, Govender praised Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela for helping them remove the illegal land invaders. “Our meeting went well and our ward councillor Rooksana Ahmed was helpful in calling the municipal security to ensure that the illegal structures that were popping up were actually brought down,” he said.

Govender said even though it was quiet for now, the invaders promised to be back after they were forcefully removed. He added that the people who were suspected of being behind the land grab denied their involvement when confronted in the meeting.

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