Land occupiers caught in battle between private KZN landowner and tribal council

Only rubble was left after bulldozers demolished ten homes in Verulam, north of Durban. (Photo: Nokulunga Majola)
Only rubble was left after bulldozers demolished ten homes in Verulam, north of Durban. (Photo: Nokulunga Majola)

Further demolitions have taken place in Ward 59 near Verulam, north of Durban. On Tuesday 10 houses, including incomplete buildings, were bulldozed. A few houses were left standing. This was the second demolition this month, GroundUp reports.

"It looks like we are caught in the middle of a battle we know nothing about," said land occupier Thembisa Msweli.

The Qadi tribal council has been giving people permission to settle on the land and "selling" plots to them. Induna Muntu Shangase has said that "the land belongs to the inkosi of the Qadi people and he can do with it as he pleases and he chose to give sites to the people who need it".

However, Thamodarum Govender says he purchased the land in 2003 (then owned by Tongaat Hulett) and he has legal title to it. He has a court order of August 17 to demolish structures set up by land occupiers.

Govender said in 2015 he told people they could not live on it for free.

"Only I have a right to give people sites. I know there are people who grew up there and those who have been living there for years. I don't have an issue with them; I have an issue with people who recently started building there," said Govender.

'We lost everything'

"I am paying all the rates for that land and I don't have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is people selling my land for R20 000 and more. I have a problem with people building on my land without my permission," he said.

"Induna Muntu Shangase told us not to bring more people to build," said Bonginkosi Ngubane, whose house was demolished. At the moment there are 70 people who have sites on the land. "We are confused now and we don't know what to do. We have lost everything that we had because we were told [by the induna] that we have a right to be on this land."

Ward councillor Bongani Majola said he received a call from Shangase on Tuesday asking him to stop the demolitions.

"I heard they had a meeting on Sunday but they never told me about the meeting. They never tell me anything and only when there is trouble they call me. They should have involved me in this matter from the beginning," said Majola.

"I couldn't stop the demolition because I cannot go against the law. As the municipality we have an interest in developing and buying the land, but occupying it illegally complicates matters for us," said Majola.

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