Land invasion stand-off with City

New structures are built on open land.

More than 60 structures which were put up by Wallacedene residents on Monday March 26 in Phase 9, adjacent to formal housing and in Section 13, known as Edongweni, have been dismantled by law enforcement.

Section 13 is on a piece of land owned by the City of Cape Town and demarcated as a temporary relocation area (TRA).

On the same day the City issued a statement, saying it would continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to attempted land grabs.

Between March 12 and March 18, the City of Cape Town dealt with 65 land invasion and associated protest incidents, while 24 arrests were made for public violence.

The City said on Friday March 23 about 1 200 illegally erected, unoccupied structures were removed across the metro in response to what it said is believed to be large-scale orchestrated land invasions.

Last week in Bloekombos, Kraaifontein, about 200 residents went on the rampage after their illegal structures were demolished by law enforcement (“Land invaders face the law”, Northern News, March 21).

Wallacedene residents, however, said they continue to search and occupy vacant land around the area, because they have difficulties with renting.

One of the residents, Nolubabalo Sitengile, feels that it is useless to vote because things do not change for the better. “We have no jobs, no land and yet we have kids that we have to take care of, and provide shelter for them. I just hope government and the municipality can listen to our needs,” said Ms Sitengile.

In agreement with Ms Sitengile, Xolisani Jako said they felt it was best to occupy the vacant piece of land because they could no longer afford rent due to unemployment and dependency on government grants. “We have kids but with no proper space to live with at all, and we have seen these open pieces land for years without anything being done and said about the land,” said Mr Jako.

Residents said they would not vote until the issue of land was resolved.

Siviwe Nodliwa, Wallacedene community leader and assistant to ward councillor Simphiwe Nonkeyizana, said they were aware of the land invasion. He said the land was owned by the City of Cape Town and was a TRA, earmarked for the City’s “super-blocking” that would begin soon.

Community member, Noniwe Ngcalasa, said they had met with the councillor about the burning issue of land.

She said the councillor had told them before that there was no way houses could be built on the land because of the flood risk.

The councillor had also told them that if they occupied the land they would be moved, she said.

“This doesn’t make sense to us because the Phase 9 residents were allowed to build houses and were never removed although they are closer to a big dam,” said Ms Ngcalasa.

Meanwhile Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said when land was invaded it jeopardised emergency and basic service delivery, stretched City resources and prevented progressive integrated development to manage rapid urbanisation.

“We again call on all private and public sector partners to help us to prevent attempted land grabs. The issue of land is heating up across the metro.

“As a City, we must continue to safeguard our land as far as possible, especially in the period leading up to the national elections in 2019.

“All landowners, however, have a responsibility to act too. The City cannot protect and monitor all land in the metro.

“The City’s administrative and political leadership condemns in the strongest possible terms any political or civic instigation of land grabs. We also continue to liaise with all provincial and national authorities to ensure that the City gets the support that it is entitled to,” said Ms Limberg.

She said those inciting the recent and ongoing spate of attempted land grabs across the city did so according to their own narrow agendas.

Ms Limberg said over the next few years to 2020/21, excluding the additional funding allocated to formal housing projects, the City had earmarked some
R600 million in total for various informal settlement upgrade programmes, re-blocking, super-blocking and the establishment of incremental development areas. This includes the expansion of service delivery in informal settlements in general. She said this was in recognition of the fact that programmes that upgrade informal settlements or that establish developments in an incremental manner are the best way to provide large-scale housing opportunities for residents.

“Private owners of open tracts of land are called on to take all reasonable steps to protect their land from being invaded. We ask that private land owners 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 measures necessary, such as hiring private protection firms to guard their land 24/7.

To provide information about land invasions or for further information, call the Public Emergency Communication Centre on 107 from a landline or on 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.