Winde condemns land invasions as R50m housing development is 'lost'
Western Cape premier Alan Winde has doubled down on his condemnation of violence and destruction of property committed by service delivery protesters and land invaders.
In several districts across the province and in poor neighbourhoods in the Cape Town metro, large-scale land grabs have taken place for several weeks, leading to clashes with authorities.
By last week, Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said at least eight land grabs were taking place daily, meaning law-enforcement authorities were stretched beyond their limits.
This was evident as land invaders sectioned off pieces of land directly next to the N2 highway. Skirmishes saw people throwing rocks at cars, forcing several roads to be closed, including the N2.
Schools, a library and a clinic were among the targets when protests turned violent.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Winde said: “We have seen the destruction of property, we are seeing schools being burnt down, we are seeing libraries and clinics being destroyed and burnt down and absolute illegality taking place.
“We need to condemn that in the strongest terms, and we need to ask our law enforcement people to find these people and bring them to book.
“It does not help the cause at all if we destroy the property of the people. I think about a school or a clinic, a clinic which was set up specifically in this case to help people during this pandemic, and two days into operation it gets trashed and burnt. It is unacceptable, we cannot allow it.”
Humanitarian organisations including the Human Rights Commission (HRC) have gone to court in an attempt to interdict Cape Town from removing structures during anti-land invasion operations.
Plato said the HRC’s application, supported by the Legal Resource Centre and the EFF, would negate the common law right to protect property from land invasion.
“The SAHRC is asking the courts for an interdict preventing landowners from removing empty, unoccupied structures as a means of protecting property from invasion,” said Plato in a press statement on Wednesday.
“Further, the SAHRC is asking the court to declare unlawful the well-established common law principle of ‘counter-spoliation’, which permits all landowners to protect their property against the erection of illegal structures.
“The application also seeks the voiding of existing court orders explicitly permitting the city to protect specific sites from illegal invasion using counter-spoliation.”
He said the city had lost land earmarked for a R50m public housing project to a land invasion at the weekend in Makhaza, Khayelitsha.
“Unfortunately, 420 families who have waited patiently on a housing waiting list have had their rights undermined as the land was illegally invaded over the weekend,” he said.
“With R1.3bn in housing developments at risk, I appreciate the commitment from the Western Cape police commissioner that the police will lend their full support to planning anti-land invasion operations with the city’s chief of metro police,” he said.
Winde said though it was unlawful to evict someone from a property or a dwelling during the lockdown, “it is illegal and absolutely unacceptable to utilise this lockdown for illegal land-grabs and criminality. I condemn that absolutely.”
He called for the authorities to act against the organisers of the land grabs.
At one of the land invasion sites in Mfuleni, people told TimesLIVE last week that many of them had been evicted for being unable to pay rent during the lockdown.
Winde said on Wednesday that though there were promising signs that the Western Cape had passed its peak infection rate and that Covid-19 figures were believed to be in decline, there was a second “pandemic” which needed attention.
“Pandemic number two is the pandemic that’s starting to bite here which is unemployment, hunger, starvation, joblessness,” he said.
“We really need to try to make sure that we find a balance for the new normal of operation. We need to make sure more businesses can open.”
He said he had requested an urgent meeting with co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and health minister Zweli Mkhize to discuss opening the Western Cape economy.
“We see what’s happening to our economy, we see what’s happening to our SMMEs, we see what’s happening to a number of businesses, like those linked to the wine industry.
“We can see what’s happening to our tourism industry. These are two big job creators, agriculture and tourism in our province. We need to enable the businesses, though doing it very safely.”