Different areas in Durban have been sparked by land grabs over the last two weeks, with the most recent one being in Cato Crest, Mayville; where residents started cordoning off a portion of land to erect their shacks.
While the eThekwini Municipality has emphatically stated that it doesn’t entertain any land grabs in and around the city, disgruntled members of Cato Crest community have embarked on a land grab spree on Mary Thipe Road. This, after members of Abahlali baseMjondolo in the area allegedly descended on the nearby forest and started clearing up and marked their plots last week.
According to residents of Cato Crest, people have been waiting for houses for decades now, and have been trying to secure a piece of land where they can build their shacks while waiting. However, they say they were told not to build shacks on the municipality’s land.
“Some of us have lived here for more than 15 years but we are still squashed in small roomed shacks with our families. We’ve been waiting all these years for houses but none have been delivered,” Meme Dlamini told the Daily Vox in an interview.
The community says that they had obeyed the rules of the municipality and decided not to grab any land, but “After seeing people securing land in various places, and even getting into our own forest we had to do something.”
“We are unemployed and living in houses as a family of more than eleven each. Life is not easy at all, that’s why we decided to also occupy this land because there were people who had already gone ahead of us,” Dlamini said.
Dlamini (32) is unemployed and relies on selling peanuts at a taxi rank and children’s social grant money for survival. She is sharing a two-roomed shack with her mother, three siblings, her kids and that of his sisters’. She says finding employment is hard without education.
“I’ve been doing odd jobs here and there but they never last. That’s why I’m now selling at the rank so that I can provide for my kids,” she said.
Most people in the settlement are unemployed and rely on working as vendors to make ends meet.
Sthembiso Ngcobo hails from Mzimkhulu, the south of KwaZulu-Natal, and says he has lived in this area for years now.
“I live on the streets and can’t stay with my kids because I have no place to call home. We are doing all this so that we can build our children a place they can call home.”
“Most of us left our homes to seek for employment opportunities but those never easily come by,” he said.
These residents say they have been appealing with the municipality to provide them with adequate housing, but that fell on deaf ears, forcing them to now grab the land.
Nhlanhla Nzama* said: “We are not fighting with anyone, we just want land so that we can build homes for our children. We’ve been voting all these years but we have not benefited from our votes. We want to send a message to the mayor of eThekwini and the ANC that we won’t be voting in these upcoming elections until our demands are met. All we want is land.”
In a statement, Abahlali baseMjondolo rubbished the claims of occupying the vacant land, saying the organisation had nothing to do with it.
“We are not opposed to occupation of land by the people. We have always affirmed our support for the occupation of land as a means for people to live and thrive. We support grassroots urban planning.”
“Residents of the area in formal houses have been told that the new occupation was organised by Abahlali. This is a lie. The new occupation was organised by Ngiba. Anyone who wants to know the truth must just visit the area and see for themselves what is happening,” it said.
Residents have called on the mayor to meet up with them and hear them out. They have also vowed not to back down on their quest for land.
*Names have been changed