The new Slums Bill passed by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government took effect at Crossmoor, outside Chatsworth, south of Durban, yesterday with the demolishing of 25 shacks by "red ants".
The bill, passed last month, aims to outlaw the building of new slums in the municipality.
More than 100 people said they were made homeless by the demolition of their shacks. They vowed to re-erect the shacks once police left the area.
Many said they had lost all their possessions. Some of the shack owners were at work in the city when their dwellings were destroyed.
When Sowetan arrived at the scene, heavily armed police and metro police were guarding the "red ants".
Nosisi Madikizela, 25, said she was bathing her 12-month-old baby girl when the guards started demolishing her shack.
"They did not have the decency to explain what they were doing," she said. "Our food was also thrown out for no reason."
Falakhe Mhlongo, a community leader, said they had informed the eThekwini municipality about the 25 shacks last month and he was baffled why they were destroyed.
"During a protest for better housing last month, we told them that there were 25 shacks that we would have to re-erect after they were destroyed and they agreed. Now we are shocked. We will re-erect them as soon the police leave," he said.
Nigel Gumede, chairman of the housing committee in the eThekwini municipality, praised the authorities for demolishing the slums. He said he was happy that the bill was being enforced.
"We have lost sympathy with these people. We have been building houses but new shacks keep springing up all over.
"This is just the beginning. We will demolish all shacks in the municipality. We have been considering this for a long time and we got a court order and now the bill protects us," he said.
Gumede said the shack dwellers had also threatened to invade flats in the city even though they "do not even belong to the city".
The new bill gives municipalities powers to act decisively against land invaders and also lays down procedures that have to be followed if a person is in need of accommodation.