By Mamela Gowa
Buffalo City Metro is fighting a losing battle with illegal land invaders despite winning court orders to prevent the crisis from spreading.
In a new report tabled last month before council by city manager Andile Sihlahla to appraise the council on steps being taken by the metro to enforce court orders and to safeguard the vacant land parcels against invasion, Sihlahla revealed that the metro only had one inspector.
Although a media company, Makinwa Media, was appointed to erect notice boards as per court orders obtained in May last year publicising BCM’s right to interdict illegal land invasion, the “perpetrators” allegedly removed the boards.
As a result, Sihlahla said the threat of invasion “will always be present”.
He said the land parcels under threat should be closely monitored and any attempted invasion be nipped in the bud.
However, the metro’s property management department does not have the capacity to conduct regular inspections, and instead there is only one inspector to do the job.
“According to the approved organogram, there is a dedicated unit to respond to issues of land invasion, but the posts are vacant and unfunded, hence the department is challenged in adequately responding to issues of land invasion,” said Sihlahla.
Some of the affected areas where notice boards were erected are Macleantown, Park Ridge, Scenery Park and Mdantsane.
In Scenery Park, poles were installed and reportedly removed the following day.
Boards were also dismantled.
In Mdantsane, residents clashed with the company that was trying to put the boards up.
A court order empowers the sheriff of the court – with the assistance of BCM law enforcement and police – “to take all necessary and reasonable steps to dismantle or demolish any structure erected on this property in contravention of the court order”.
Although the metro is not winning so far, Sihlahla said BCM law enforcement continued to conduct periodical patrols in hotspot areas to eliminate any illegal occupation and unlawful land invasion.
He encouraged ward councillors and ward committees to report any unlawful activities.
The Daily Dispatch reported in July that an application for a court order to interdict land invaders from occupying land owned by the council in Dorchester Heights, Cambridge West and Brakfontein, among other areas, had been granted.
The case was heard in the East London High Court, where the judge ruled against those who attempted or threatened to unlawfully occupy at least seven vacant land parcels.
The EFF was the only party to oppose the court orders in council, while the ANC and DA supported the move and called on the spatial planning and development department to take steps to enforce the court orders.