Cato Crest community leader gunned down
By NKULULEKO NENE
Durban – A Cato Crest community leader caught up in the land invasion chaos that has gripped the area was gunned down at a local tavern at the weekend. Thembinkosi Qumbelo, who was president of the Cato Crest Residential Association, had gone to Silwane Tavern at about 8.30pm on Friday to watch soccer when he was shot, tavern owner Sipho Mthethwa said yesterday. Mthethwa said he was not at his tavern at the time, but was told that Qumbelo had been standing in a passage outside when four men arrived and shot him from behind before fleeing. Other patrons ran for their lives, he said, adding that about 10 spent cartridges were found at the scene.
Qumbelo had been trying last week to get the eThekwini Municipality to allocate council houses to shack dwellers whose homes were demolished to make way for a housing development in Cato Crest. About 1 000 displaced shack dwellers had invaded land in adjoining Sherwood on Wednesday, and were determined not to move. They had dubbed the area “Marikana” after the scene of last year’s Lonmin mine massacre.
In an interview with the Daily News the same day, Qumbelo had described the situation as tense, saying residents had not been provided with alternative accommodation when their shacks were destroyed. He had said the failure of a community committee to consult adequately with the affected residents had fuelled the land invasions.
Qumbelo had asked his local ANC ward committee to give him an opportunity to address the invaders, but the invaders had chased him away. A day before Qumbelo’s killing, another member of the committee was shot in the arm. The Ward 29 member, who asked not to be named, said he feared for his life after he was ambushed at his home. “I thought I was dying when I heard a number of gunshots fired through the window at about 2am,” he said. “It has never crossed our minds that we could be attacked and probably killed.” He said he was shocked to learn that Qumbelo had been shot dead. “We worked together in the ward committee meetings. It is not easy to go back home, if discharged, without knowing who is behind these attacks,” he said. “My plea to the eThekwini council is to investigate and arrest these people.”
Mthethwa, who is also a member of the ANC ward committee, said the killing of Qumbelo had traumatised him. He described Qumbelo as a “brave, loyal leader of the people” who had recently rejoined the ANC after a short stint with the National Democratic Convention, an IFP splinter party. He said it was painful having to wipe the blood of his friend from the floor. “We are coping though. It is not easy to say who did this,” he said, explaining the group of invaders had been infiltrated by outsiders.
“We visited his (Qumbelo’s) family as the ANC to pray with them in this difficult time,” Mthethwa said.
Approached for comment, Ward 29 (Mayville, Bonella) councillor Zanele Ndzoyiya said she had no time for an interview as she was in a meeting with local residents.
SAPS spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said police were investigating the killing, but that the motive was not yet known.
No arrests have been made.
Shack dwellers invade Durban
LEE RONDGANGER and NKULULEKO NENE
Durban – Close to a thousand displaced shack dwellers who
have begun clearing land along Sherwood and Cato Crest
with the intention of living there have escalated their
demands that the eThekwini Municipality provide them with
houses – or face their wrath.
Yesterday, angry shack dwellers continued to chop down
trees and remove bush in open tracts of land along Mary
Thipe Road (Cato Manor) and King Cetshwayo (Jan Smuts)
Highway after their shacks were demolished last week to
make way for a housing development in Cato Crest.
The land being cleared near King Cetshwayo Highway,
which also borders Piedmont Road, has been dubbed
“Marikana” by the invaders, after the scene of last year’s
Lonmin mine massacre. They are determined not to be
The invasion comes as members of Parliament said yesterday that they were “sick to the stomach” when they heard
that R886 million had not been spent by the Human Settlements Department (full story on Page 2).
The eThekwini Municipality is facing an uphill battle in providing housing to more than 410 000 people living in 150
000 shacks. There are also 11 000 families living in transit camps in eThekwini.
Recent figures provided by the Department of Human Settlements show there are 636 informal settlements in
KwaZulu-Natal, 484 of them in eThekwini.
According to residents of nearby Manor Gardens, the banging and chopping went on throughout the night on
“It was a mad racket,” said a resident of Rif Road who feared being named. “We called the municipality and the
police, but the noise and cutting down of the beautiful trees just did not stop.
“It would be a tragedy if they were allowed to clear one of the last green belts in this area, for shacks.”
On Tuesday, a mob armed with pangas and spades attacked a councillor’s house in Cato Crest and also damaged a
council office and an earth moving tractor.
Yesterday there was a large police presence at the Cato Crest settlement where several city officials met leaders of
the land invaders.
According to Cato Crest Residents Association president, Thembinkosi Qumbelo, officials from eThekwini warned the
crowd to stop clearing the forest or face going to jail.
Also discussed was the invasion on Tuesday night of 18 nearly complete council flats in Cato Crest.
Qumbelo said the invaders were chased away by people whose shacks had been demolished to make way for the
flats, and who felt they had a stronger claim to the new homes.
“The situation is very tense. Residents were not given an alternative accommodation after their shacks were
demolished for the project. Part of the houses had been completed, but not allocated to those on the waiting list,” he
“We have been told that invaders came from as far as Chesterville, Bhambayi and uMlazi.
“They want to seize the opportunity to own a house. It is a complex issue,” Qumbelo said.
“Some of the people were from the nearby Wards 29/30.”
He said the failure of the area committee to consult adequately with the people whose shacks had been demolished
and those paying rent to “shack landlords” had fuelled the land invasions.
On a visit to the multibillion-rand Cornubia housing development near uMhlanga earlier this year, members of the
city’s executive committee expressed concern about the never-ending shack problem.
“The mushrooming of informal settlements is a challenge for the city to beef up its land invasion control,” chairman
of the city’s human settlement committee, Nigel Gumede, reportedly said.
Councillor flees from land invaders
Durban – A Durban councillor had to flee his ward with his
family on Wednesday when 500 armed land invaders turned
on him and stoned his house and office as he was pleading
with them to stop an illegal occupation of municipal land.
Despite police and security personnel being called in, the
invasion continued and last night the invaders were
continuing to use bush knives to clear vegetation.
The incident is unfolding on open land near Cato Manor
Road, Rif Road and Owen Avenue and residents of nearby
Manor Gardens are concerned it could compromise their
Some of the invaders were living as tenants in shacks in
Cato Crest until these were demolished to make way for
There are also allegations that some of the invaders have
received houses, but have been making a living out of letting out shacks.
Heavily armed police, metro police and private security guards were called to stop the invasion, which continued in
A policeman told The Mercury that the police and security companies had asked officials to negotiate a settlement
with the invaders to avert a violent confrontation.
Mayor James Nxumalo said he was concerned about the safety of ANC councillor Mzimuni Ngiba. The eThekwini
Municipality would not allow people to occupy municipal land illegally, he said.
Ngiba fled his Cato Crest home after the invaders damaged windows then proceeded to his municipal office nearby,
causing more damage.
Nxumalo said the municipality was trying to raise more than R1 billion to build houses for 410 000 people on its
waiting list in Durban. He would visit the area on Saturday.
The invasion started on Monday and Manor Gardens residents said some were occupying private land.
This morning I received a call from a lady who said people were cutting down trees close to her property. It is against
the law to invade land, whether it is municipal or private,” Nxumalo said.
Ngiba said workers employed by a construction company contracted by the municipality to build low-cost houses
had been attacked on Wednesday and had stopped working.
We had a meeting with police, municipal and provincial officials on Wednesday,” he said.
“Representatives of the invaders were also there to demand houses. Soon after the meeting I received a call that
there was trouble and there was a threat to attack my house. My children had to flee. “Right now I cannot go home
because I’m concerned about our safety.”
ANC members gathered near Ngiba’s house and said they would protect him.
Branch secretary Bongani Ngcobo said:
“If we allow these people to continue we will never be able to evict them from the land, which is already earmarked
for more low-cost houses.”
Manor Gardens resident Njabulo Mngoma said he was concerned about the value of his house, which worth about
“If people are allowed to build shacks we will be exposed to crime here,” he said.
Johann van den Berg, chairman of the local Environmental Forum, said the presence of shacks would have a
devastating effect on the value of property in Manor Gardens. “Residents have valid concerns.”