The Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) is in the process of applying for a court interdict against the rampant land grabs by Komani residents who claim they were promised sites by the mayor, who was now avoiding meeting with them.
The land invasion began on Sunday morning on the open fields on Victoria Road by a large group of residents who indicated EMLM mayor Luleka Gubula had been avoiding meeting with them to discuss the land question after she had promised them sites during a community meeting last month.
By Sunday afternoon, more residents had joined the illegal activity by taking over other open fields in several neighbourhoods around town, putting up poles and painted rocks to mark their sites
Open fields at Rathwick, Sabatha Dalindyebo, Queensview Park, Nomzamo and others in Mlungisi had all been demarcated by Monday afternoon, with some residents saying they were part of the land grab because they saw others doing it.
Community leader Thembela Maxambela said they decided to take over the land and prioritise Nkwanca informal settlement residents, people who lived in backyard rooms from other areas and anyone else who needed a site and did not own a house currently and was originally from Komani.
“The whole thing started when some residents whose shacks had burned were placed in temporary structures in an open field opposite Nkwanca informal settlement. That piece of land was promised to the people of ward 17 which includes the Nkwanca area, by councillor Mncedisi Mbengo who later changed his tune, saying the field was for ward 11 residents. We wrote to all relevant government institutions including the human settlements department and local municipality who attended to us through the speaker, who told us there was no money to build RDP houses.”
Maxambela said they had made numerous attempts to meet with the mayor who had promised them sites during a community meeting, but could not get through to her.
On Monday, Queensview Park residents who woke up to a group of people demarcating sites on a piece of land near the suburb, tried to stop the land invasion by chasing away some people who had demarcated sites next to their yards and had even closed off Fincham’s Neck with burning tyres.
Resident Andiswa Shweni said they were removing the people demarcating sites in their area because if they built structures on the field it would decrease the value of their homes and would contribute to the growing criminal activity in the area.
“This is an illegal activity and none of them will tell you who they got permission to mark sites from. If the local government did not grant them the land, where would they get water and electricity from, where would they go to the bathroom?” she asked.
Shweni said they had barricaded the road with burning tyres to get the attention of the mayor because no one had heard anything from the municipality about the land grabs.
Komani Residents’ Association (Kora) spokesman Zolile Xalisa said they were disgusted by the ANC’s “evil conduct” and stood firmly with the poor and landless, but condemned the land invasion taking place.
“The land grabs are not a genuine land restoration programme. This has all the hallmarks of ANC factional battles, hell-bent on reversing the suspension of the irregular appointment of the municipal manager and director of community services and now the community’s genuine needs are exploited to achieve evil factional ends. It is common cause that authorities will come back and dismantle the houses erected, with devastating financial and social effects as the same people will be rendered homeless, with little or no legal recourse.”
EMLM mayor Gubula met with Queensview Park residents on Wednesday afternoon to learn about their frustrations in the matter after they staged a sit-in at the town hall on Tuesday, demanding her attention.
The mayor told them what the local authority was doing to mitigate the land grab issues which included the serving of an interdict on all those identified as having fuelled the invasions.
“Residents decided to invade open fields over the weekend, which is completely wrong and illegal. We have been very lenient with disruptive people, but we will be harsh regarding this matter. We opened a criminal case at the Mlungisi police station on Monday, because taking what does not belong to you is theft and we condemn it.
“We have appointed attorneys to apply for a court interdict against the land invasion which will be served on all those who encouraged this criminal activity. We are still collecting data on who was involved, but we have received some names.”
Gubula said once the interdict had been granted, the municipality would remove all the markings across all the fields and anyone who went to put them up again would be arrested.
“We know the EMLM council took a resolution that all available residential land needed to be identified and sold. However, we are still awaiting the completion of the land audit. We understand that implementation has been poor on our side because we took this decision a long time ago. The land grabs happened while we were waiting for available land sites for residence to be advertised in the newspapers.”