Cele lays down law on competence of Cape Town enforcement officers

05 September 2020 - 15:38
Police minister Bheki Cele said City of Cape Town law enforcement personnel were not planning anti-land invasion operations with the police.
Police minister Bheki Cele said City of Cape Town law enforcement personnel were not planning anti-land invasion operations with the police.
Image: GCIS

Police minister Bheki Cele laid into the City of Cape Town in parliament, airing tensions between his department and the council law enforcement department, which he claims answers to no oversight body.

Cele told the police portfolio committee on Friday that he had not yet received  competency certificates for about 1,000 law enforcement officers.

These had been requested in February after the fatal shooting of a plain-clothes policeman by a law enforcement officer in Cape Town.

He said the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) was unable to investigate law enforcement officers for the shooting, which he referred to as a “murder”.

Ipid was also impotent in the face of other alleged misbehaviour, such as the treatment of a naked Bulelani Qolani during an anti-land invasion operation in Empolweni, Khayelitsha, in July.

“The problems we are talking about in the Western Cape don’t come from metro, they come from law enforcement, whether it is a killing of a SA Police Service member, which nobody is commenting about, whether it is Qolani, whether it’s the woman who was pulled by the hair and many other ills, they come from law enforcement,” said Cele.

“Councillor JP Smith and [city safety and security director Richard] Bosman, we have sat in meetings with them, they know that there is no access of oversight even of Ipid over these matters.

City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.
City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.
Image: Trevor Samson

"[Law enforcement] is a structure that’s giving us problems and nobody is monitoring them, constitutionally and legislatively, that’s the issue here.”

The policeman's killing is being investigated by the police and no one has been arrested.

Responding to a presentation by Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, Cele blamed the city’s response to the land invasions for the chaos.

“The law enforcement, they go alone, they don’t plan with everybody, no signed plans, then when things go wayward then you call the SA police to come mop up the trouble that is there,” he said.

He was referring to Smith's comment that the Western Cape had fewer public order police units than its less populated neighbour, the Northern Cape, and far fewer than the Eastern Cape.

Human rights comissioner Chris Nissen in Khayelitsha on July 2 2020 after a naked Bulelani Qolani was involved in a confrontation with City of Cape Town anti-land invasion officers.
Human rights comissioner Chris Nissen in Khayelitsha on July 2 2020 after a naked Bulelani Qolani was involved in a confrontation with City of Cape Town anti-land invasion officers.
Image: Philani Nombembe

The city council has come under fire for its land invasion operations, and the SA Human Rights Commission was recently granted an interim high court interdict that prevents further evictions during lockdown, if a court order has not been obtained first.

The city is applying for leave to appeal, and Smith told the committee the court had erred in not accepting the city’s evidence.

He said land invasions and the violent backlash when authorities try to intervene are the largest single threat to the city.

“It’s a situation we see unpacking across the country with Buffalo City, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town all experiencing very significant rises in land invasions,” he said.

“We have to protect national, provincial, city and private land from illegal occupation and in this regard we have to follow the prescriptions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction (PIE) Act and Unauthorised Occupation of Land Act with the common law remedy of counter-spoliation.”

Smith said there had been 147 land invasions since the first week of July, accompanied by 115 protest actions, resulting in 91 arrests and 46 injured law enforcement staff.

The city claims it had to deal with 60,000 illegal structures erected during the invasions, just under 10,000 of which were illegally occupied and which the authorities are now unable to remove because they fall under the protection of the PIE Act.

“This unfortunately means that many people who have been waiting for land for formal housing are deprived of those opportunities because of these land invasions,” said Smith.

“There is a R50m project in Khayelitsha that has been lost, about 500 units, to a land invasion at the Mahama site that we will never get back.”

Smith said protesters in Bloekombos had used bricks from sidewalks to create barricades and as weapons against the police, and a council employee had been injured by a petrol bomb thrown at him from close range.

The city said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA also lost large tracts of land along it’s now disused central line in Mfuleni, Philippi, where shacks had been built on the tracks.

“Driftsand nature reserve during the last spate of land invasions became severely affected and a large portion of the land there was lost,” said Smith.

“This is a national park and biodiversity area under control of SANParks, yet people have built right onto the dam wall and we fear for the consequences of that.”

Smith said “political manoeuvring” was behind some of the invasions, which were led by would-be ward councillors trying to build their profiles.

“Opportunistic entrepreneurial action” was responsible for other invasions, said mayor Dan Plato, adding that “shack farming” was prevalent.

“It’s between R2,000 and R4,000 a site, they orchestrate it, it is well planned, it is well orchestrated by people that want to make money out of poor people,” he said.

“It's become very clear that hundreds of thousands of rand are made out of shack farming and invasions.”

The city claimed the sudden increase in demand for land is because landowners in Dunoon and Khayelitsha have evicted backyard dwellers who can no longer pay rent.

Earlier this week, Cape Town mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi said demand for housing was predicted to outstrip supply by 30,000 homes a year.

He said 500,000 housing opportunities needed to be created by 2028 if the city was to keep up with demand as the population was expected to grow by 800,000 inhabitants.

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