Bonela land invasion

Security officers keeping a tight watch in the area.

A public spat broke out between certain irate residents of Bonela and the local community policing forum on Tuesday night at a meeting after some residents accused the policing body of dragging its feet and not coming up with tangible solutions in addressing the illegal building of shacks in the area.

Members of the community further claimed that they were being allegedly ambushed by shack dwellers during the week on the streets of Bonela over the building of illegal shacks and had no protection from the community police forum.

Last week, residents became concerned when they started noticing that certain areas were being demarcated with plastic bottles and land was being cleared to build shacks.

The members of the community quickly mobilised themselves and started working together to prevent the invaders from erecting shacks.  This was done in conjunction with various security companies.

However, on Tuesday night, there was high drama and tension after  Cllr Warren Burne took charge and called an urgent public meeting to address the fears and concerns of locals. The meeting which was meant to take place in the Embassy Church in Bonela subsequently took place on the road where Cllr Burne facilitated the meeting.

Cllr Burne gave them an overview of what was happening in relation to the building of illegal shacks and fielded questions by fuming residents who claimed members of the local community police forum were not working with the people, citing poor communication, lack of transparency and accountability.

At one stage of the meeting, when Cllr Warren tried to address the angry crowd, he was continuously interjected by members of the public. There was also an exchange of words by residents and the CPF members.

While the meeting continued, Cllr Burne was also informed by certain individuals that the municipality’s community participation services were addressing another crowd at the same time at the bottom of the road at Wiggins Grounds.

A resident who spoke at the meeting also applauded the efforts of law enforcement agencies and those involved in keeping residents safe and preventing action from the invaders.

However, he did point out that if people needed housing, they should not walk the streets with machetes and bush-knives to intimidate and become violent with residents of the area and rather take a civilized approach.

He added that three houses were burgled in one week already. Towards the end of the meeting, residents informed the group that armed shack dwellers were approaching them.

The land that was cleared for the alleged demarcation of shacks.

The land that was cleared for the alleged demarcation of shacks.

This instilled fear into the residents and they slowly began to disperse. A concerned individual, who didn’t want to be named in fear of his safety said, “Residents are not united in Bonela. If we are not united, we cannot take charge of the situation. We need to speak in one voice. We need to work with all stakeholders in the community to find an amicable situation. Housing is a sensitive topic and we need to treat the subject with sensitivity. We cannot act like a vigilante group. That will never help.”

Cllr Burne said he will keep liaising with officials and try to engage with the ANC councillor who called the meeting in Wiggins Road.  He also suggested that the CPF and all parties concerned use the current land invasion issue as an opportunity to find common ground.

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Vivaga Thambiran
News editor

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