There has been a massive spike in protest action.

Cape Town - Protest action in the first third of the year had risen 73%, according to the City of Cape Town.

This has prompted the City's safety and security chief, JP Smith, to approach the police to establish a "priority committee on protest action", Smith said in a statement.

"During a meeting with SAPS and members of the provincial cabinet last week, SAPS indicated that there had been 145 protest actions in the first four and a half months of this year compared to 84 during the same period in 2017. This represents a 73% increase in protest incidents that have grown progressively more violent," Smith said. 

"The City’s own statistics corroborate the trend. To discourage people from settling on land that is not suitable for human habitation, the Anti-land Invasion Unit removes, on average, 15 000 illegal structures and/or pegs per annum. However, in the first four months of 2018, that figure is standing at over 26 000," he said. 

The City would be taking a "zero-tolerance approach to attempted land grabs across the metro".

The City has earmarked more than R850 million for the upgrading of various informal settlements, in addition to additional funding allocaterd to formal housing projects. 

Smith has appealed to private land owners to prevent their properties from being invaded.

"They must ensure that interdicts are in place if required; that they follow legal procedures to get trespassing orders in place if need be; and take all necessary safeguard measures, such as hiring private protection firms to guard their land 24/7," Smith said.

"SAPS has identified 34 conflict areas. Just in the last week, we have had protests in Vrygrond, Parkwood, Bo-Kaap, Ocean View, Gugulethu, Macassar, Khayelitsha, Robert Sobukwe Road and 35th Avenue, Milnerton, Dunoon and Mitchells Plain."

Over the last few weeks, safety officers have been fired upon with live ammunition, the City of Cape Town said, as protests have become increasingly violent. 

"We are pleased to learn that 115 suspects arrested during the wave of protests have been charged in terms of Section 18 of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act of 2015. The act makes provision for a person convicted of tampering with or damaging essential infrastructure to be imprisoned for a period not exceeding 30 years. SAPS has indicated that they are opposing bail – a position that the City strongly supports.

"We will continue to support SAPS in terms of public order policing. The City is dispatching as many resources as it is able in order to deal with the violent nature of the protest action. We are also making available additional budget in the next three financial years to employ more Metro Police and Law Enforcement staff and we are also investigating what kind of technological contribution we are able to make to further enhance enforcement efforts," Smith said. 

He said the City understood that communities have legitimate service delivery concerns, but the issues were being "hijacked by others with criminal and politicial intent".

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Cape Argus