Lindiwe Sisulu calls on police and army to protect land before it is invaded
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has called on the army and police to enforce lockdown regulations by protecting land before it becomes a target for land invasions.
The minister of human settlements, water and sanitation was appearing before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday, where she told MPs that land invasions would not be tolerated. At the same time she was also adamant that proper procedure must be followed by authorities who sought to evict people from land.
Sisulu was responding to a question from DA MP Mbulelo Bara, who seemed to take issue with the spotlight being solely on the eviction of Bulelani Qolani – while naked at his shack in Empolweni informal settlement – in the DA-led city of Cape Town. Bara asked about evictions taking place in the south of ANC-led Johannesburg.
“We say that there should be no land invasions and we say that there should be no evictions,” said Sisulu in response.
“When we say that there should be no land invasions, it is actually that which we mean. The responsibility of making sure that this happens is with law enforcement. It is in our regulations and therefore we expect that the law enforcers will make sure that any land that is on the cusp of being invaded is protected appropriately.
“In this particular lockdown, not only do we have the police but we also have the capacity of the defence force that we can employ to make sure that if there is any threat to any land that we actually protect that land.
“We are working on this to ensure that we can put it into effect, but what we have done is make sure that we put it into [a] regulation, so that nobody can use their power to evict anybody.
“We are asking both the EFF and any other party, whether it is the ANC or any other party, please, to spread this word. Invasions will not be tolerated in this lockdown. We have a plan to try and de-densify areas. We are coming to every area that is possible that we have identified.
“Invasion of land is illegal. But at the same time, once somebody is in a house that has been put up, the law enforcement agencies are required to approach the courts to get permission to do something about that. They may not do what was done at Empolweni.”
The minister was in the NCOP to account for the role of her department in the government's efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Walking the house through the de-densification project to allow for social distancing, Sisulu lamented that many South Africans lived under deplorable conditions in informal structures.
“They are not a best place where a child should grow up. We are continuously very concerned about them,” she said.
The Sunday Times recently reported on the slow progress that the department has made in setting up the temporary units, where families would be moved to from overly populated and cramped conditions in townships and informal settlements.
In a presentation by the department of human settlements, it was said that some 3,500 informal settlements exist in the country and are home to around 1.8-million households.
The department said their efforts to build the temporary units had been hamstrung by contractors lacking access to materials during the earlier days of lockdown.
Similarly, the minister and Rand Water CEO Sipho Mosai said that while thousands of water tanks had been delivered to areas in need – as flagged by local municipalities – some had still not been erected due to the closure of warehouses providing cement and other necessary infrastructure during the earlier part of lockdown.
Sisulu was adamant, however, that every school in need would have water tanks by the time pupils returned to class.
When members of the house mentioned areas still without tanks, the minister said it was the municipalities and department of basic education that needed to notify her department where tanks were needed.