Nomthandazo Ngubane, 45, cannot bear the thought that she might one day be greeted with piles of rubble in a place she calls home. Ngubane, together with other villagers, are involved in a bitter legal battle with the Nkandla local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) over land where they have built their homes.

Villagers who have spoken to Mukurukuru Media relayed their anguish at the possibility of having their houses demolished. Ngubane worked for 8 years as a merchandiser at Okapi, the knives and hand tools manufacturing company based in Phoenix Industrial Park. She saved enough and in 2013 she took a voluntary package.

She subsequently used her pay out to build a four-room house and two rondavels for her frail parents in her homestead of Nkandla. It was Ngubane’s childhood dream to one day build a decent home for her parents whom despite languishing into poverty ensured that her and three siblings went to school and completed matric. But all her hard work might be for naught should the municipality be successful.

“For three years, it has been an uphill battle fighting the municipality not to demolish our houses. As a child, I grew up in extreme poverty, we were crammed in one rondavel with my parents and three siblings. I made a promise that I would one day restore their dignity and build them a decent home. In a split of a second, the municipality wants to take this away from me,” says Ngubane.

She says she paid a sum of R1 500 to the local induna (meaning advisor) Gobizitha Cebekhulu. The fee is prevalent in traditional communities and often referred to as ukukhonza, meaning one is officially permitted to erect a home within the village and duly belongs to the community. This was accompanied by two cases of beer, a bottle of brandy, and a sorghum beer. It is protocol for anyone who wants to build a home on tribal land across the province.

Another concerned villager, Mdumiseni Nxumalo shared his anguish, saying the house in which he lives was left to him by his parents.

“I’m not going anywhere. I have two kids and a wife and this place holds fond memories of my parents. Besides, I’m not working and where should I find money to buy land and build a new house from?” he asks.

He says although they knew that they were fighting a losing battle, they would not go down without a fight. “Instead of negotiating with residents they want to force them out. They are also not prepared to pay us any damages. We know that politicians always have their way, but we will die fighting,” he says.   

Now about 20 villagers face evictions after the Nkandla local municipality took the matter to court. The municipality wants the villagers removed from the area and their houses demolished. According to the municipality the land belongs to them and is earmarked for development. But residents are refusing to move, demanding compensation and for the municipality to find them different suitable land.

Municipality spokesperson, Mgcobeni Khanyile says residents have occupied land which is zoned for development.

“Before they occupied the land, they were cautioned that the land was reserved. As it stands, the municipality is unable to expand the town because of the homes which were built illegally. We are waiting to hear from our lawyers so that we can move ahead with the plan to demolish the houses,” says Khanyile.

Meanwhile, Chube traditional council spokesperson induna Nkosentsha Shezi says the land in question belongs to the Shezi chieftaincy and that the municipality itself is built on their land. He says the traditional authority authorised all homes built in the area.

“For the longest time, we have been at loggerheads with the municipality over our land which they say belongs to them. Fortunately, early this year the Pietermaritzburg High Court confirmed that the land belonged to the Shezi chieftaincy,” says induna Shezi. – Mukurukuru Media

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