THE DEBATE: Issues of housing and land ownership were a powder keg that was about to blow up, warned Mercia Andrews, director of the Trust for Community Outreach.
Cape Town - Issues of housing and land ownership were a powder keg that was about to blow up, warned Mercia Andrews, director of the Trust for Community Outreach.

Andrews was speaking on the sidelines of the ANC’s land summit at the weekend which resolved that land claims by farm dwellers be settled immediately.

Citing violent protests in areas such as Vrygrond and Parkwood, Andrews said poor people had been complaining about housing and land for a long time.

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“In Parkwood there is huge overcrowding. Nothing has changed in the area and the area also has an informal settlement now. The housing backlog in the Western Cape is huge. There has also been a swell in informal settlements. In the rural and peri-urban areas, people who are evicted from farms also move into informal settlements.

“The land question is not just about livelihoods and houses, but also about recreation for people. What kind of recreation is there for people in Parkwood? They need to rethink the housing policy. In this country we have historical legacies. This land and housing issue is going to explode.

“We require radical land reform and redistribution. The land question must also be how we are going to tackle poverty? Land expropriation must ensure that we do not compromise food security,” she said.

There was also a call for farm evictions to stop immediately.

ANC national executive committee member Ronald Lamola said: “There are at least 22 000 farm dweller claims. Government is called to act and stop farm evictions, and ensure this does not happen again, especially in areas hard hit by evictions such as in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.”

He said a panel would be established in the Presidency to help the government combat evictions. President Cyril Ramaphosa also reiterated that the government would be looking at expropriating land without compensation. He said this would deal with inequality and eradicate poverty.

“The poor need to be given rights to work the land,” he said.

NGO Women on Farms welcomed the new resolution. Carmen Louw from Women on Farms said they had always called for a moratorium on farm evictions. “This resolution is huge because there has never been legislation which protected farmworkers’ rights of permanent tenure on farms before,” she said.

Recently, violent protests broke out at the Siqalo informal settlement in Mitchells Plain. People protested over housing and services.

More land invasions took place in Hermanus last week as protesters demanded land and housing. Zama Timbela from the Khayelitsha Progressive Youth Movement said 3 000 people invaded a piece of land next to Spine Road.

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Meanwhile, Lamola said delegates at the land summit “were clear” that it was time to implement the December conference resolution on land redistribution. However, said Lamola, section 25 should be tested. “The workshop called on the government to proceed and act section 25 as it is now allows us to expropriate without compensation, but the debate has been that it has not been tested, so we’re saying, let’s put section 25 to the test through farm dwellers and labour tenants where you can use section 25 to expropriate, and also put a redistribution bill before Parliament that will clearly define the expropriation and under what circumstances,” Lamola said.

Delegates at the summit also proposed that Ramaphosa should, pending final legal advice, approach the Constitutional Court to test the constitutionality of the redistribution bill.

After unveiling and signing the “Thuma Mina” pledge outside Luthuli House yesterday, Ramaphosa said the summit held in Ekurhuleni was a success.

“Many wonderful ideas were put on the table on how we can legislate this process. We are now moving to the NEC, which will meet this weekend to deliberate on the outcomes at the land summit,” he said.

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Cape Town