We have a problem.
The situation at the city dump in New England Road is a crisis that has been allowed to develop to a point where heavily armed bandits are now holding authorities to ransom.
People are living illegally on top of piles of rubbish and seem to have no fear of the authorities who want them gone from the dumpsite.
During an oversight visit by the council yesterday, people continued building their illegal structures and they also lit fires in plain sight of the delegation.
The City mayor, Mzimkhulu Thebolla, told us that he has to resort to calling in the police and the army, immigration authorities and the city’s own security detail in to help them clear illegal settlers, whose habit of continuously burning fires at the dumpsite is simply untenable.
Our city has suffered enough toxic blazes that have even halted traffic on the national highway, to an extent that this has become a threat.
Another reason for the this issue to be taken seriously. If, as is reported, the people who inhabit the dumpsite to scrape a meagre living off scraps of copper and other waste material, are heavily armed, that alone is a threat of a full-scale gun battle ensuing even if authorities try to intervene.
However, action must be taken now before more tragedies occur.
ALSO READ | Anarchy at Msunduzi landfill site
Our story last week covered a gunfight at a dumpsite where a man was shot, and some structures built on the perimeter of the dump were set on fire. Worryingly, children live there as well.
As the number of land invasions grows in our country, our local municipalities need to ensure they have methods ready to deal with land invasions on dumpsites to a fine art. Swift and effective, but non-lethal means have to be deployed.