The article on the illegal trade in city land, published in Weekend Witness on Saturday, was a story not just of crime, but of the total collapse of local government.
Anyone, including the police and municipal officials, who wants to see the extent of this illegal market simply needs to look at social media ads.
There, the trade in stolen goods is brazenly on display. Sellers, who do not own the land, offer plots without paperwork (punted as an advantage, which given moribund bureaucracies and unwieldy process is a great selling point), and often with the promise of services.
In some cases laying on water and electricity falls to other criminal operators, but in some cases, for unfathomable reasons, the municipality is the provider. It is almost beyond comprehension that any municipality would, in the first instance, condone the theft of land.
Make no mistake, since the theft takes place openly, and since the land invasion unit and the police do nothing, it is being condoned, and there is even suspicion that the municipality is a knowing accomplice in some cases.
It is equally inconceivable that stolen land, on which rates cannot be levied, should then be given access to water and electricity, for free.
The situation is, in short, completely out of control. It is being played out in the Lion Park area, in Thornville, in Otto’s Bluff, in Mpumuza, at Henley Dam. Everywhere.
The financial implications are obvious, and the fact that Msunduzi is in administration is therefore no coincidence.
The planning implications are equally obvious. No planning is taking place, and none can be imposed to create any order when most land use is uncontrolled and illegal.
Which means that how the city grows, and how its environmental, spatial and health issues are regulated, is entirely out of Msunduzi’s reach. What is the point of local government that cannot govern? The rampant trade in stolen land is a depressing sign of of a state failing before our eyes.