Durban shack dwellers blame eThekwini municipality for ‘illegal demolitions’

2017-10-02 20:22
A woman sleeps in an open space after her shack was demolished. (Mxolisi Mngadi, News24)

A woman sleeps in an open space after her shack was demolished. (Mxolisi Mngadi, News24)

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Durban – Shack dwellers from Blinkbonnie Road in Bonela, Durban have accused the eThekwini municipality of being "brutal" and defying a court order which prevents them from demolishing their shacks.

The residents told News24 that the municipality’s Land Invasion Unit demolished their homes shortly after midday on Monday.

The dwellers, mostly women, were already rebuilding their shacks when News24 visited the area in the afternoon.

The municipality's Land Invasion Unit controls and prevents any illegal erection and unauthorised building. It’s also mandated to stop and discourage people from illegally occupying land.

Zandile Mlambo, 35, said she was forced to rebuild her shack because she does not have nearby relatives who she could stay with.

“I stay here with my son, 4, so I have no choice but to start building my room again. The weather is bad and it looks like it will rain in the evening. I have to be done by night so that I have some sort of shelter for me and my son at night,” Mlambo said.

Other angry residents said they decided to block the road with burning tyres after one of the residents, Nhlanhla Mtshali was allegedly beaten and injured by members of the Land Invasion Unit.

“They used gun butts and fists to beat him up. There were about seven of them who assaulted him. We tried to intervene but they used rubber bullets to chase us away,” claimed one of the residents.

Another resident who asked not to be named showed News24 the jacket Nhlanhla Mtshali wore when he was assaulted.

A shack dweller shows News24 the jacket Nhlanhla Mtshali wore when he was allegedly assaulted by the eThekwini Municipality's Land Invasion Unit. (Mxolisi Mngadi, News24)

“They are so brutal, they even sprayed teargas directly to his face. He was badly injured and we took him to King Edward Hospital where he was admitted,” said the resident.

'The struggle continues'

The residents also accused the unit of stealing their cellphones and money during the “attacks” which began on Saturday.

“We are sometimes forced to retaliate by throwing stones at them because they don’t even care that we live with children who might get hurt during their violent demolitions,” the resident said.

Shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo secretary, Thabiso Mohapi accused the municipality of defying a Durban High Court order dated July 27 which, he said, prevented it from demolishing shacks in the Cato Manor area, which Bonela falls under.

Mohapi said 35 families had a right to occupy that piece of land.

“We are dealing with a violent and criminal municipality that has no regard for the law or for the dignity and lives of the poor. The struggle for land and dignity continues. We will continue to occupy land and to hold the land that we have occupied,” said Mohapi.

A woman rebuilds her shack after the eThekwini Municipality's land invasion unit demolished shacks in Blinkbonnie Road, Bonela, Mayville. (Mxolisi Mngadi, News24)

Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said the Land Invasion Unit demolished nine structures belonging to families that were not listed in the court order obtained by Abahlali baseMjondolo.

“During the demolitions, members of the unit were attacked, and petrol bombs were thrown at them,” she said.

Mthethwa said the municipality has noted a sharp increase in the number of illegal land invasions and will do everything in its power to protect rights of residents and businesses within the ambit of the law.

“Land is a scarce resource and the municipality has an obligation to protect and preserve land with the purpose of utilising it to unlock future development opportunities for the growth and sustainability of our city,” she said.

Police were not immediately available for comment.           

Read more on:    durban  |  housing  |  service delivery

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