Gugulethu backyaders disrupted traffic, stoned passing vehicles and set alight a post office during protests for land. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - The destruction and torching of public property in Gugulethu and Philippi this week during violent land invasions and housing protests has been condemned by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. 

"We cannot tolerate or accept any justification for the destruction of property during protest action. We respect everyone’s right to protests but the violence and destruction cannot be condoned," De Lille said. 

"The destructive protests comes after the City went to the areas last week where I and local councillors met with residents to listen to their concerns.

"I am especially concerned about the impact that such actions will have on residents who are trying to go about their lives going to work and school," De Lille said. 

Highways and other main roads were blocked by protesters who built burning barricades. The protests are being carried out mainly by backyarders who say they have had enough and demand land to build their own homes, or for the government to provide them with homes. 

"I also want to place it on record that the City of Cape Town will not tolerate land invasions in the city. Land invasions are illegal and pose fire, health and flood risks.

"I want to urge residents to follow proper housing and service delivery processes," De Lille said. 

But the backyarders say the service delivery processes have failed them.

"Backyarders living in Gugulethu have been formally engaging with government for years, to no success. Protesting is the only way to go now. This is what we will do," said Ludwe Joka, a community leader.

De Lille was planning to meet with the leadership of the group of backyarders on Thursday, a follow-up on the meeting held last week.

She also urged private land owners to "act proactively, to safeguard property by fencing, monitoring or hiring private security". She also advised "they act quickly to obtain court interdicts against illegal land occupation". 

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Cape Argus