By Annisa Essack
Since the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a staggering rise in land invasions.
In the Kwazulu Natal, illegal land occupiers have flocked to secure small plots on Ballito Drive sandwiched between Shakas’ Head and the upmarket Caledon Estate and in Sheffield.
Sipho Mkhize, the KwaDukuza municipality spokesperson, said they had attempted to remove the squatters several times, but the response has always been violent. He claims that police assistance was requested but has not been forthcoming.
Umhlali Saps spokesperson Vinny Pillay denied this, saying the local police were willing to assist where needed.
For a group of shack builders, business is booming as they sell illegal shacks to desperate land grabbers on municipal land in Ballito. Shack-builder entrepreneurs have been making a healthy profit as well.
The pop-up industries – food vendors, tuck shops, merchants selling household goods, among others, are also thriving. And with no running water, selling buckets of water is also a thriving business.
A land occupier said you could procure a one-bedroom shack for just R1500. A 50% deposit secured him the shack, and the balance was paid on completion. A larger jondol would come in at approximately R 3000.
More enterprising invaders build their shacks with whatever materials they can source.
In an interview with Courier News, Sipho (22), who is unemployed, said he was aware that the land belonged to the municipality, but he just wanted land to live on.
Hlengiwe (47) also admitted that she was aware she had invaded the vacant land but said she has nowhere else to live, and the land was not being used, so she moved in.
Many squatters say that they had previously been living in shacks, often in the backyards of other homes, and could no longer afford the rent. So, they looked for land where they could live rent-free.
The invasions have created new neighbourhoods, like the densely populated “Hlanganani” (which means place of togetherness in Zulu), settlement in Sheffield, which was invaded in 2019. Presently there are more than 100 shacks with approximately 600 land occupiers.
The shacks are spread across a green belt bordering an upmarket eco-estate, where apartments can be bought for R3-million and houses sell for up to R9 million.
According to KDM spokesperson Sipho Mkhize, the municipality was granted a court order in November last year to remove the land invaders living on the municipality-owned Sheffield site earmarked for a mixed-income housing project to demolish all the illegal structures.
But Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Shack Dwellers Movement, has challenged the application saying they have “a valid claim to the land”. The matter is pending. In other cases, Mkhize said it was still not clear if the land was owned by the council land or privately owned.