City of Cape Town drafting tougher laws for illegal land occupations
Cape Town – In a move to ward off land invaders and illegal occupations, the City is drafting a plan which includes stricter law enforcement, fencing off all unused City land, security, lighting and putting up temporary structures.
“The Draft Unlawful Land Occupation framework is a dynamic document that is undergoing amendments as we speak. It comes in the wake of the spate of primarily organised, large-scale illegal occupations, especially in the last four months,” said Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi.
According to the City, the weekends of late July had the most acts of unlawful occupation, suggesting the economic toll of the lockdown had begun to affect the ability of households to pay for their abodes.
“The extreme increase in mostly large-scale, organised unlawful land occupations, often with the involvement of so called ‘shack-farming’ syndicates over the Covid-19 lockdown period and while the national crisis regulations remain in effect, among other reasons, have led to the establishment of new settlements in many parts of the metro … These areas are now demanding immediate services,” said Booi.
The plans include a shift to its source of information gathering, the securing of land which will mean fencing, adding lighting and having on-the-ground security and deploying additional law enforcement officials.
Since July, the City claims it has overseen the clearing of 27 000 illegally occupied plots, and demolished nearly 60 000 structures during anti-land invasion operations. It has previously said that projects worth R1.3 billion were affected by illegal land occupations.
Kashiefa Achmat, a member of the Housing Assembly, a social movement representing more than 20 communities in the Western Cape, said land invasions happen as a result of the City’s slow pace in delivering housing.
“We are not happy about this because many of the City’s housing projects have come to a standstill.”
Good general secretary Brett Herron said: “If the City plans to focus on prevention of land occupation, then it plans to fail.
“The City leadership needs to plan for urbanisation and for the demand this places on available space.”
ANC caucus leader Xolani Sotashe said: “This is sheer arrogance from the City because as long as the City is operating in an isolated way it will sit with this problem.
“Now the City wants to deploy more resources which will cost ratepayers more money. They (the City) should have used these land invasions as a wake-up call to find out the root cause.”
Meanwhile, the second day of the court case involving the SA Human Rights Commission and the City to stop the City from evicting people, got under way with the Abahlali Mjondolo Movement, which joined the application as a friend of the court.
Advocate Stuart Wilson told the court: “If there is any ambiguity about whether a structure is occupied or unoccupied, then the strong will always prevail over the weak.”
The applicants – the SA Human Rights Commission and several other intervening parties – want the urgent order to prohibit the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU) from demolishing structures or evicting people to be made final, and to extend beyond the state of national disaster.
City legal representative Sean Rosenberg said: “Our submission is in the context where one is dealing with land occupations and in many instances organised occupations; in order for a land owner to regain possession it may require meaningful steps to be taken.”