DA councillor's role in Delft is 'criminal'

By Lindsay Dentlinger, Leila Samodien and Lenore Oliver

A political row has blown up over the alleged role that DA councillor Frank Martin has played in fuelling racial tension in Delft by encouraging the illegal occupation of government housing.

The ANC in the province has asked Local Government and Housing MEC Richard Dyantyi to intervene in the controversy and the ANC's city caucus is calling for Martin's head.

Tensions in Delft Symphony simmered this morning after violence erupted when up to 2 000 people were evicted from their homes on Tuesday after a court order.

Hundreds of people slept outside on the street and Martin showed his support by spending part of the night with them.

On Tuesday people milled around in their blankets and sleeping gear, and it was not clear about the next plan of action.

Martin is facing criminal charges for the alleged role he played in encouraging the illegal occupation of the homes in December last year, but no disciplinary steps have yet been taken against him by the city council.

According to a High Court eviction order, Martin is interdicted and restrained from inciting third parties from taking possession of or occupying the Delft houses.

The DA said on Tuesday that it would wait for the outcome of council or criminal procedures before deciding on a course of action.

In the provincial legislature on Tuesday, Social Services MEC Kholeka Mqulwana urged Dyantyi "to deal with Frank Martin because the DA won't".

"You (the DA) don't have a strategy to deal with backyarders and you are using Delft as a political tool," she said. "Frank Martin doesn't deserve to be a councillor."

The ANC has accused Martin of telling communities that under ANC rule, black people received preferential treatment over coloureds on government housing waiting lists.

Mqulwana's remarks were echoed by Finance MEC Lynne Brown, who accused the DA of "openly using the housing saga in Delft by fostering racism to believe that blacks are being housed before coloureds".

"Why are you not stopping Martin from racialising the Delft issue? Why is he spreading untruths and racial lies?"

ANC spokesperson Garth Strachan said that if an ANC councillor led an occupation of houses in Constantia, the DA would have "screamed blue murder".

"And because of the commercial nature of the press, this would have made headlines but because (this incident) is in a poor area and involves coloured people nothing is done."

The ANC leader in the council Mbulelo Ncedana told the Cape Argus that Martin should be suspended for his actions, labelling the invasions by backyarders as "thuggery".

But Martin has hit back, saying he had "cold, hard facts" which indicated that black people were being given preferential treatment for housing opportunities.

He claimed that it would only be black families from Joe Slovo who would receive the houses in Delft.

"They turn facts into racial issues. I will speak out against them if what they are doing is not in line with the constitution.

"The ANC is dealing with the plight of a certain race group only which is of concern to me.

"If you qualify for a house, you should get one, not based on race.

"If 100 percent black families are getting the houses, does that make me a racist?" he said.

Martin said at least 30 percent of the disputed houses were expected to be occupied by Delft communities, but he could prove that this was not going to happen.

It has been two months since Martin was first accused of inciting people from occupying the nearly completed N2 Gateway housing, but the city council is yet to formulate any disciplinary charges against him.

At last month's council meeting, Speaker Dirk Smit rejected the ANC's attempt to introduce a motion of exigency that the council agree to Martin being suspended.

Smit said on Tuesday that his office was still studying the claims against Martin and had been awaiting the High Court appeal judgment regarding the occupation, being handed down on Monday, before finalising its investigations.

Martin's legal representative had also been liaising with the Speaker's office.

Smit said his office was now considering the facts before making any recommendation to the disciplinary committee that Martin be disciplined or not.

Martin said he would not oppose a city council decision to discipline him.

The DA chief whip in the council, Anthea Serritslev, said the party was unlikely to consider disciplinary steps against Martin until the council's disciplinary committee, of which she is also the chairwoman, had considered any action against him.

Martin's next court appearance is on April 25.

Last night, Martin arrived in Delft Symphony at about 8pm to address a crowd of people who had been evicted.

He said the City of Cape Town had arranged for three trucks to move them to Tsunami temporarily.

This arrangement, Martin said, would only be for about four or five days until the city had set up basic amenities, such as water and toilet facilities, on a site they had allocated in Delft.

"I believe in the people's choice and we, as government believe the people must decide, so I will sleep where the people will sleep."

He said another meeting would be called this morning to decide whether they would move to Tsunami.

At the informal meeting, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign chairman Ashraf Cassiem said they would still take their appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

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