Cape Town - The Western Cape Government has spent more than R400 million trying to protect housing projects and land from being invaded.
Spokesperson for MEC for Human Settlements Tertuis Simmers, Marcellino Martin said of the R400m more than R358m has been spent in the Cape metro alone.
The most recent illegal invading of a housing project happened last weekend when armed people held estate security guards at gunpoint “in an attempt to hijack social housing units” at the Communicare Bothasig Gardens apartments.
Police arrested 25 people on charges of housebreaking and the possession of housebreaking implements.
The apartment block is brand-new, part of Communicare’s social housing development in which 314 new apartments are being built. The block in question is nearly completed with new tenants expected to move in between this month and next month.
“The attempted hijacking follows a high court order on May 24 to evict 40 people who, on about March 2, had violently overruled the security guards at the Goedehoop residential complex in Brooklyn,” said chief executive of Communicare Anthea Houston.
“The court ordered that the hijackers be immediately evicted from the premises where they have already been living illegally, rent-free for three months.”
She added that the mob that attempted hijacking the units in Bothasig Gardens adopted the same modus operandi as those in Brooklyn.
“This points to an organised crime syndicate that are mobilising to hijack and vandalise buildings while intimidating tenants.”
Communicare has invested R44.5m, the government provided R85.3m in grants through the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) while R33m was raised as a loan to finance the development at Bothasig Gardens.
“All the units are aimed at families with combined incomes between R5 500 and R15 000 per month,” explained Houston.
Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi said hijacking of buildings is common and it is often challenging to remove people.
“A court order must often be obtained. The national Covid-19 disaster regulations that were implemented last year prevent ‘evictions’, except for the prevention of unlawful occupation. Project sites are under the control and management of contractors who must accept responsibility for securing the units. The City also employs private security at a number of its housing projects to prevent these occupation attempts,” he said.
Due to the risk of vandalism and occupation of completed Breaking New Ground (BNG) houses, the City affords beneficiaries of its housing projects the choice to move into their homes before electricity connections have been installed. Contractors are responsible for paying for damaged houses.
Simmers said the effects of building hijacks were felt over a long time.
“We’re constantly seeing how projects are delayed due to these invasions. In fact, the delivery of housing opportunities can be delayed by 3 months to 5 years, and in rare instances even longer.
“Having the elderly, individuals living with medically certified disabilities, those who’ve been on the Housing Demand Database (HDD) for 15 years and longer and backyard dwellers, wait even longer due to these illegal invasions is unacceptable,” he said.
Social housing activists could not comment on the issue as they said they are not aware of who the “building hijackers” were or which group they belonged to.