Fears that new draft by-law will force Cape families into homelessness
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Cape Town - Aggrieved civil society organisations have written to the City, citing their disappointment and objection to the City’s newly-drafted Unlawful Occupation by-law.
This, after the City released a joint statement by its portfolio chairperson for safety and security Mzwakhe Nqavashe and portfolio chairperson for human settlements Beverly van Reenen, saying that the by-law was the clear answer for the complexities of the reality of the human settlements in Cape Town.
The Social Justice Coalition, Reclaim The City, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Abahlali base Mjondolo, Housing Assembly, and Tshisimani have slammed the City for allegedly attempting to criminalise the poor and vulnerable citizens, who became unlawful land occupiers due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, by wanting to institute the Unlawful Occupation by-law.
In a strong letter directed to the City’s Specialised Services Law Enforcement deputy chief Leon Wentzel, who is facilitating the comments regarding the by-law, the organisations passionately penned their objection, saying that they were disappointed in the City’s choice of resolution to the current housing crisis and its decision to continue persecuting the poor.
Social Justice Coalition, advocacy and organising head Nkosikhona Swartbooi said Although they were not surprised by the City proposing a by-law that aimed to criminalise the poor, they were still affronted and against the process.
“Firstly the City failed to communicate properly with the same communities that would be affected by this by-law. When we began engaging them last week, community leaders did not even know this was in the works.
“They failed to notify these communities and allow for an adequate period of public participation. The draft by-law was published on June 26, 2021, with the deadline for comment set on July 31, 2021. A few weeks on an issue as massive as this could never be enough, especially when the concerned communities were limited in how they could participate – from rising Covid-19 infections and taxi wars, to fears of unrest,” said Swartbooi.
“If this by-law goes ahead, we will have widespread illegal evictions across the City and families being pushed into homelessness. We will be sitting with City officials who believe that they are a law unto themselves.
“While we recognise the unlawfulness of some land occupations, it is not illegal to occupy land. The City is seeking to make that criminal, which is in contravention of the Constitution.
“The City should not be given the power to illegally evict someone, remove a dwelling without a court order or arrest people for occupying land. That’s against our constitution. We doubt the City thought through the repercussions of this by-law, that they would be pushing people into homelessness and perpetuating inequality.
“Instead of this attempt to take us back to the dark ages, the City should have, instead, sought to engage with leaders from informal settlements. These areas have structures in place that the City could have used to find sustainable and long-term solutions to the housing crisis. The City should also not forget that it has an obligation that it must fulfil when it comes to citizens living here,” said Swartbooi.