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Helpless city homeowners despair as shacks sprout

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Residents say that since the start of the lockdown, land grabs have become a daily occurrence

Kirstenhof residents can only watch helplessly as the number of illegal shacks grows. Picture: Danie van der Lith

CONCERNED residents in Hodgson Road in Kirstenhof have stood by helplessly and watched as the number of illegal shacks in the veld opposite them grows daily.

One resident said that since the start of the lockdown, land grabs have become a daily occurrence.

Although the land, which is situated between the West End Cemetery and St Boniface High School, is privately owned and fenced off, land grabbers have destroyed the fence and moved in.

“A bulldozer has been brought in to flatten the land and then bakkies arrive, with ready-to-make shacks. Within a day the shack is erected. Every day there are new shacks being erected,” said the resident.

He added that he had contacted the municipality, his ward councillor as well as the police, but to no avail. “The police say we must only contact them if someone starts a fire. We have even contacted the executive mayor but nothing is being done. It is extremely concerning as there are no facilities like water or sanitation to cater for the large number of shacks.”

Land grabs in the area started earlier this year, with residents in Pelvie Street initially expressing concern.

Hundreds of shacks have since been erected in the square bordered by Silson, Pelvis and Veld roads, which has been turned into an informal settlement.

Homeowners in the area said that they are afraid that the value of their houses will drop due to the illegal invasions.

“These land invasions are spreading like wildfire in the city. There are land invasions in almost every residential area of the city. If things continue at this rate, we might as well all just take ownership of a piece of land, erect a shanty and stay there,” said one of the homeowners.

“It does not seem like the municipality has a permanent solution to curb these invasions or how to get people removed from the land. It is really frustrating since we have to pay for the land and services we have whereas others just demand to get those same services for free.”

Other residents said that while they understood the plight of the land invaders, homeowners are also directly affected by land grabs.

“We understand the plight of those who invaded the land. However, if they continue to occupy the land then things will become a problem for both the shack dwellers and homeowners in the area. That land has not been supplied with basic services by the municipality. Where are the land occupiers going to get water and toilet services? We are already faced with a lack of basic services from the municipality and now a greater amount of people will be affected.”

The Sol Plaatje Municipality said at the time that the local authority was aware of the land invasion and that it is adding to the challenges that the municipality is facing.

“We call upon community members to engage with the municipality in order for the municipality to assist in the challenge of housing instead of merely invading land illegally. The illegal invasion of land will result in a demand for basic services from the municipality. Community members must communicate with the municipality and not resort to such actions,” the municipality said.