City land grab thwarted

2018-06-27 17:01
About 50 ‘land grabbers’ occupied a piece of land earmarked for a development  on Chota Motala (Old Greytown) Road. They began erecting shacks on Saturday. The structures were demolished by Msunduzi on Tuesday afternoon.

About 50 ‘land grabbers’ occupied a piece of land earmarked for a development on Chota Motala (Old Greytown) Road. They began erecting shacks on Saturday. The structures were demolished by Msunduzi on Tuesday afternoon. (Ian Carbutt)

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Msunduzi has sent a strong message that it will not tolerate land invasions.

The City acted swiftly on Tuesday to demolish some 10 informal dwellings just days after they were put up by land invaders.

The land grab took place on private land earmarked for a low-cost housing development along Chota Motala (Old Greytown) Road. The dwellings, fashioned out of planks of wood and logs, were bulldozed yesterday afternoon. The structures had been erected on Saturday, reportedly by about 50 land invaders.

On Tuesday morning when The Witness visited the site they found police there monitoring what was going on, and the land invaders, many of them sporting EFF attire.

The land owners, Realgem Investments CC, instructed lawyers to launch an urgent interdict in a bid to remove the occupiers, but Msunduzi demolished the structures before the owners even went to court.

The occupiers were also in the sights of the police, who yesterday confirmed a case of trespassing was under investigation. The site is part of a larger piece of land around the Bakerville Heights area. It was purchased by Realgem in 2008. According to a development plan, the housing development will have more than 180 units.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha told The Witness that the City had issued contravention letters to the invaders. She said City policies allow for informal structures to be demolished by the City 24 hours after such letters had been issued.

“We do appeal to communities to report any act of land invasion and they must be aware that it is illegal and anyone found contravening the law will be prosecuted,” she said.

EFF councillor at the uMgungu­ndlovu District Municipality, Khumbulani Nene, who was called by the invaders for assistance, said he would meet the municipality then decide a way forward. He said he wants to meet the land’s owners and their attorneys.

“They [the invaders] told me that piece of land was vacant for years. They said they had investigated the matter and found that no one owns that land. So they began erecting shacks.”

He said the occupiers, all of whom are from ward 30, had grown frustrated with the limited space around their own homes and were seeking out bigger spaces to build homes.

Siva Chetty, acting on behalf of Real­gem, said: “My client was driving past the area over the weekend and noticed people putting up shacks.

“My brief was to file an urgent interdict and to get the shacks demolished and get the people ejected. I met with the police and with the municipality’s land invasion unit.”

Chetty said municipal services had already been installed in parts of the development, and roads were already cut.

Ward 30 councillor Renesha Jugmohan said she was in contact with the owners about the issue. “We urge the owners to take responsibility over their vacant properties and ensure security measures are in place to deter any future land grabs,” she said.

Meanwhile, a Pietermaritzburg lawyer said on Tuesday it seems the City demolished the structures illegally. “Having a policy does not allow you to circumvent the Constitution. A judge has to make these kinds of decisions.”

S’bu Zikode, the chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo, however, believed the municipality only needed a court order if their actions would leave the invaders homeless.

“This is unlikely, since they moved there just days ago,” he said.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  land grabs

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