Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

LETTER: We will not be the City's whistle-blowers on land invasions, Mr Mayor

By Opinion Time of article published Sep 6, 2020

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Dear Mayor Dan Plato,

Re: Your letter titled “Land invasions undermine housing programmes”.

As a group of the Cape Town residents whom you address, we wish to state that we find most of your comments and the tone of the letter objectionable.

First, we assume that we, mainly white, middle-class, well off residents living in suburbia are the residents you are addressing.

There is no sense in the letter that your concerns are being put to the many hundreds of thousands of our citizens who live precarious lives in informal shelters around the city.

Your remarks, taken up by organisations such as the Rondebosch Community Improvement District, are clearly aimed to warn and enlist the help of well-off residents against black invaders. There is nothing to suggest you are consulting fully with leaders among those you accuse of organised invasion.

Second, we think it is ingenuous for you to say that these invaders are undermining “law-abiding people who have waited patiently many years on the housing list...”

Everyone knows that the housing list gets longer every year and that the chances of getting formal houses for most of those waiting patiently, are nil. They will die before then.

Third, you concentrate entirely on the idea that the invasions are “orchestrated and politically motivated”. There is nothing in your communication that asks: Why are people so discontented that they are prepared to put themselves at risk by being part of an invasion? To us, the answer is obvious: there are thousands of people who have been waiting just for a place to live of secure tenure, let alone a reasonably permanent structure; they have run out of patience. Undoubtedly Covid-19 has augmented their sense of urgency and they want a safer place for their families.

Nor do you say which political grouping is doing the orchestration. Elsewhere you talk of “opportunistic political groupings”. What is that, if it is not a group of very discontented people getting together and deciding that with the almost complete incompetence of the authorities to make space in the city available for them, they will take the law into their own hands?

Fourth - your concentration on the illegalities involved in the invasions such as “shack farming” and backyard evictions.

This is a typical strategy of right-wing government leadership, such as that of President Trump in relation to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, of deflecting attention from the real, serious issues which the demonstrations and invasions point to, by focusing on fringe criminal elements. Similarly we believe that to call the invasions large-scale “criminality” is aimed to muddle the issue.

Finally, we are offended by your attempt to enlist us in your aggressive campaign, by asking us to report signs of invasion. The City of Cape Town is the body responsible for the manner in which the city grows in accommodating its new citizens.

It has done woefully in meeting that responsibility - as any drive around the Cape Flats and the current situation of more than 400000 families living in inadequate housing, shows.

Capable public servants on the council are crushed by over-powerful mayoral committees, so that there is an awful paucity of ideas and the mayoral committees, in turn, are in the pockets of developers.

The procedural bureaucracy is so lengthy that by the time any actual housing begins to be delivered, tens of thousands of new people are in the city.

The council is quick to blame any inadequacy on the lack of funds or policy direction from national government.

It is true that the national government continues to work with out-dated apartheid-type housing policies, but what has the City done to give leadership? Nothing. It doesn’t even have a coherent plan.

And now it wants us to be its spies and whistle-blowers. It’s completely unacceptable.

* Judy & Julian Cooke, Mary Burton, Elizabeth van Heyningen, Gareth Rossiter, Horst Kleinschmidt, Roger and Hilary Southall, Di Oliver.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Solution to ending land invasions

by Councillor Malusi Booi

There have been more than 300 land invasions in the metro since January.

July saw a spike in invasions, the majority seemingly politically driven, orchestrated invasions as well as “shack farming” criminal syndicates driving the large-scale, organised illegal occupation of land.

Since July, there have been 113 protests, 87 arrests for public violence, 46 staff injuries on duty and the City has obtained 28

court orders preventing illegal occupation.

In the Driftsands conservation area in Mfuleni, hundreds of people have now settled on unsuitable land without services.

The illegal structures follow the course of the river, which is now being used for ablutions.

The recent rain has washed some structures away already.

In fact, most of the flood-affected areas across the metro are newly invaded settlements.

Hundreds of housing beneficiaries have already lost their opportunity for a home due to land for housing projects being invaded.

Rail services to large parts of the metro are under threat as the railway lines have been illegally occupied. Large infrastructure projects, for instance the R162 million water pipeline for Enkanini in Khayelitsha, are now in jeopardy.

Illegal electricity connections, done mostly by criminal syndicates that sell electricity in newly invaded areas are flourishing to the great detriment of adjacent communities that have to endure constant outages because of the illegal connections.

Despite the complex challenges of human settlements delivery, from community conflicts to an inadequate legislative framework and the negative impact of land invasions on projects, the City spends most of the funds it gets from national government for human settlements.

It is clear South Africa must move away from the over-reliance on brick and mortar housing, look to the upgrade of informal settlements and get the private sector more involved because we will never as a municipality on our own be able to solve the challenges of urbanisation and the rapid human settlements delivery required.

This is also why we have a Human Settlements Strategy which we have developed over the last two years and which is out for public participation.

In this context, we cannot allow invasions to scupper any chance we have of a better future for all in Cape Town.

Following immense public interest, the mayor recently communicated on land invasions via a public service announcement in three languages in all community newspapers in the metro, representing all residents.

Residents were thanked for working with the City to prevent land invasions on public property earmarked for services, housing, schools, transport, health and community facilities.

So, to the residents describing themselves as mainly “white, middle-class, well-off residents living in suburbia” that objected to the letter, mayor Plato was not addressing your grouping in particular.

The devastating social consequences of land invasions affect all residents, of all income brackets and backgrounds.

* Councillor Malusi Booi, Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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