The City of Cape Town says land invasions, such as the recent one in Dunoon, are politically-motivated ahead of the local government elections, but acting ANC chairman in the Western Cape Khaya Magaxa says land grabbing happens all the time and is particularly bad in the Western Cape.
Last week, the City obtained a high court interdict against protesters who damaged the MyCiTi station in Potsdam Road in Dunoon (“MyCiti targeted by Dunoon land invaders,” Tabletalk, March 23). There were also protests in Joe Slovo where illegal taxi drivers damaged the Phoenix station in Omuramba Road to force the City to legalise their routes (“Taxi trouble in Joe Slovo,” Tabletalk, March 23). The cost of the damage is still being determined.
Cowen Banjatwa, the branch secretary for the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) in Joe Slovo, said the interdict was unfair and showed the “the City has no ears to listen at all”.
“According to the interdict we have to appear in court on April 26. This is really unfair,” he said.
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“Our intention was not to instigate people to cause chaos. We wanted to calm them down. We managed to go to disgruntled taxi drivers and speak to them about stoning cars passing by and causing damage to property. We said the best route to follow was to approach the City itself,” said Mr Banjatwa.
However, he added that previous meetings with the City had come to naught.
“The City of Cape Town is racist. They might sound sweet, but their actions prove otherwise,” he said.
Only five days after these violent protests in Joe Slovo, Dunoon saw its own uprising after land invaders on a field opposite the neighbourhood had their shacks demolished.
Last week, ward councillor Lubabalo Makeleni told Tabletalk the land invasion happened when Dunoon residents heard that people living in Siyahlala informal settlement would be moved to a “safety zone” towards Richwood.
“Toilets and access points will be created for the people over there, and electricity will be connected,” he said.
He said there were people living in Dunoon who paid rent but had no toilets. He had been approached by people seeking permission to build houses on the land but he had told them he had no authority to permit that. Some of the land is privately owned and some is owned by the City.
“I warned them if they build, they must be ready when the owner reacts. The next thing, they burned my office and the MyCiTi bus,” he said.
On Saturday March 26, Benedicta van Minnen, Mayco member for human settlements, warned the City would “continue to do everything in its power and within the law to prevent land invasions”.
“On a daily basis, we are intricately involved in service delivery across the city. We engage with residents and are active in our communities and therefore we understand the housing need, but we simply cannot allow land invasions to occur. The spread of informal settlements as a result of the illegal occupation of land places an enormous strain on our resources, and land which has been invaded becomes a fire and flood risk. Much of this land is not suitable for habitation; for instance, a settlement will form on a dump site or in a wetland, which means that the installation of services such as taps, full-flush toilets and electricity is impossible,” said Ms Van Minnen.
She said invasions on private land made it hard for the City to provide basic services without the land owner’s permission. So the City then had to look for “pockets of City-owned adjacent land” to do that but such an arrangement was unsustainable.
“The unplanned proliferation of informal settlements is to the detriment of our most vulnerable residents. We will therefore continue to do everything in our power and within the law to prevent land invasions.
“As municipal elections loom, we are very aware of the influence that politics is having on increased occurrences of attempted land invasions. We ask all political parties to act responsibly and to think about the longer-term health and sustainability of our city,” said Ms Van Minnen.
Mr Magaxa, however, rejects the City’s claims that land invasion and municipal elections are connected.
“The ANC does not encourage land grabbing. We are against people who undermine laws and by-laws. Protests must be done within the confines of the law. But, in relation to claims that these land grabs are done based on the election, I disagree. People are living in confined spaces, such as Khayelitsha and Dunoon. They are frustrated and tend to occupy any vacant land they get hold of.”
He said land invasions were not a new phenomenon and had been happening long before municipal elections were on the radar. The DA, he said, should make City land available to ease the housing problem, made so much worse in the Western Cape because people flocked to the province seeking jobs.
“All these land grabs have nothing to do with the elections. These are people desperate for land especially in Cape Town,” he said.
The City said it had sought the interdict following further threats of attacks and intimidation of City staff and contractors as well as commuters. It was served on 11 named respondents, including members of Sanco and illegal minibus-taxi operators in Joe Slovo.
“Furthermore, a copy of the order granted by the court will be placed on notice boards at the entrance to each of the MyCiTi stations along the T04 trunk route,” the City said.
Municipal elections are set to take place later this year. A date for the election has yet to be announced by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, but according to the constitution the election must be held between May 18 and August 16.
For details about the elections, visit www.elections.org.za