MEDIA STATEMENT BY RAY NKONYENI MUNICIPALITY ON ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF MASINENGE HOUSING UNITS:
- INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
On the Tuesday the 20 March 2018, the Municipality received an information that a number of the unknown people who called themselves members of the military veterans went to Masinenge and occupied the incomplete housing units. The Municipality responded by convening a meeting of the Deputy Mayor, Portfolio Committee Chairpersons of Technical Services and Public Safety Departments, the Municipal Manager, Head of the Public Safety Department and other relevant Officials from various Municipal Departments in order to get a better understanding of the issues at hand and also to identify the role players in the matter.
On the afternoon of the same day the Municipal delegation met with the identified leaders of this group at the Municipal Council Chambers wherein they identified themselves as members of the Lower South Coast Umkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association. Initially, they gave an impression that the illegal occupation was not led by themselves instead, by those they identified as ‘Commanders from Durban’. They were notified that the Municipal delegation was to convene an urgent meeting with the Community of Masinenge which took place at 17h00 the same evening at the Community Creche. They were given notice to inform their leaders to join the Municipal delegation for a meeting after the community meeting. This meeting took place at the Municipal Council Chambers at 19h00 till 21h30.
At the Community meeting at Masinenge Creche, the Municipal delegation distanced the Municipality from the illegal occupation of houses. The Community was informed that the Municipality will apply the law to ensure that the rights of those approved housing beneficiaries are not being undermined.
At the subsequent meeting with the leaders of the illegal occupants, they were persuaded to vacate these units, but they indicated that they will only vacate when they get their houses built by the Municipality. Their slogan was ‘Commanders First, Civilians after’. The Municipal position was ‘Vacate the houses and come to the table for negotiations’ and theirs was ‘We will only vacate those houses when the Municipality built our houses’. The meeting reached a stalemate at 21h30 and was adjourned.
2. MUNICIPAL PLANS TO HOUSE MILITARY VETERANS
In August 2015, the erstwhile Hibiscus Coast Municipal Council approved through its Executive Committee the reservation of serviced sites in new and Urban Development Housing projects and that sites in communally owned area may also be used for the provision of housing for military War Veterans.
It is worth noting that the Municipality implements human settlements programmes under the direction of both National and Provincial policy framework. In October 2008, the Department of Human Settlement in the Province of KwaZulu Natal approved a Provincial Policy Framework commonly known as ‘Extra-Parliamentary Military Veterans – Housing Policy Framework’. In terms of this Policy Framework, the military veteran is defined as ‘those veterans who had been prepared and engaged in liberation military activities against the administration of the then apartheid government and which caused such activists to go in exile for a period of at least one year’. The Military Veterans Affairs Act No 17 of 1999 is the legal premise of this programme.
It is also worth to further note that a number of progress meeting were held with some representatives of the military veterans and were informed of this Municipal Council Resolution (EX206/08/2015) and were also given an update that:
‘THAT the Provincial Department of Human Settlements KwaZulu Natal (PDoHS) has acquired land known as Portion 1 of Lot 7 Marburg Settlement 5344, which has been planned, surveyed and serviced of which Ray Nkonyeni Municipality reserved twenty (20) sites for the military veterans.
THAT the above-mentioned land parcel was in the process of being transferred to the Municipality.
THAT the Provincial Department of Human Settlements is providing technical assistance to the Municipality to determine the status of the internal infrastructure reticulation, electricity and other with the possibility of providing funding to ensure that it meets all technical requirements for development.
It is also worth noting that the Municipality through its Human Settlements Section has always involved the military veterans in the update which included the latest provincial meeting held in Pietermaritzburg on the 09 February 2018.
When the lower South Coast MKMVA zone were requested to submit the list of the prioritised members who should be administered on the identified land parcels, they raised concerns on the criteria used which prescribed that to qualify, each member should have been verified by the National Department of Defence and Military Veterans. It transpired later that most of the people who were vocally on this programme are not yet recognized nor qualify in terms of the above-mentioned Act (Act 17 of 1999).
3. STEPS TAKEN TO EVICT THE ILLEGAL OCCUPANTS
The appointed Contractor whose performance on the project was below acceptable standards has since November 2018 been terminated. The reconciliation of all work done and paid for and incomplete works on the project has since been completed in February 2018 and the following way forward agreed upon:
- Completion of the remaining infrastructural services works utilizing Section 116 of the MFMA.
- Completion of the outstanding list (snag list) on the 103 completed and occupied units through Section 36 of the MFMA
- Completion of the outstanding works (completions and finishes) on the 195 incomplete units in Phase 1 which are subject of illegal occupation through an open tender
- Completion of the work in progress in 103 units in Phase 2 through an open tender process.
- Compilation and reconfiguration of the balance of the 455 new works (i.e remaining 75 units in Phase 2 and 380 units in Phases 3, 4 and 5) and completion through a public tender.
In light of the stalemate reached on Tuesday the 20 March 2018, the Municipality proceeded on Wednesday afternoon (21 March 2018) to serve the illegal occupants with notices to vacate the incomplete units. These notices were served and translated by our HOD: Public Safety accompanied by the members of the South African Police Services.
The Municipality also appointed attorneys from its database to prepare and file an urgent Court papers for the eviction of these illegal occupants. A criminal case of trespassing was opened with the Margate SAPS. An interim Court Order was granted by the Durban High Court on Thursday the 22 March 2018 and was served by the local Sheriff of Court to the illegal occupants on the Friday afternoon. It is expected that the eviction will be actioned on Monday the 26 March 2018 and further details will be provided at the Council meeting.
On Tuesday morning the 27 March 2018, thirteen (13) illegal occupants were arrested and reprimanded to prison until their bail application which is scheduled for Friday the 6th April 2018. They are charged with two counts of 1) Trespassing and 2) Contempt of High Court Order which directed them to vacate and refrain from illegally occupying the Masinenge housing units as well as to refrain from harassing and threatening the Municipal staff in their official duties
The Municipality’s position is not to oppose bail, but to ensure that the bail conditions of the High Court Order are adhered to and respected.
Illegal occupation of approved units deprived the approved beneficiaries of their legal and constitutional right to housing. It needed to be noted that the primary objective of this housing project was to clear the informal settlements by demolishing the dilapidated informal structures with a decent and structural sound house which is either a 48m2 double storey unit or a 40m2 single storey unit with a corresponding infrastructural services.
If the Municipality did not take the necessary steps to curb this illegal action, it would set an undesirable precedent with untold implications on other housing projects which are currently underway within the Municipality.
The Municipality is happy that its decisive stance has been exonerated by the statement issues by the Present of the MKMVA Mr Kebby Maphatsoe on Sunday the 08th of April 2018 in Sunday Tribune article when he said “people who illegally demanded houses and jobs should be criminally charged for contravening Municipality service delivery processes’
The Municipality remain committed to assist suitably qualified military veterans from all legally recognised military formation. The Municipality remains committed to be bias towards those military veterans who fought for the national liberation struggle of our beloved country.
The Municipality is happy that an amicable agreed was finally reached with the leaders of the MKMVA and it is anticipated that there will be never be the reoccurrence of such incident in the future