By Zaahidah Meyer
Violent protests are on the rise in the Western Cape, with most of it being due to insufficient land and housing. The City of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit has already removed 26 000 illegal structures this year, almost doubling the amount of illegal structures removed last year.
Head of organising at Ndifuna Ukwazi movement, Nkosikhona Swartbooi says that people are tired of waiting for government to provide them with housing. Promises have not been fulfilled and people are now through protest, holding the government accountable. He further noted that the right to housing cannot be dismissed by a bylaw or act which regulates how one should protest.
He explained that once an individual has found a place they classify as “home”, can prove that this place is their home and stay there for more than 48 hours, the law then protects this individual. Authorities now have to go through court proceedings to evict this person. He believes that the government does not always follow this procedure and breaks the law because they hand people interdicts and affidavits and not actual court orders. He believes officials are not observing the law due to a disregard for residents in informal settlements.
Earlier this year, the Western Cape Human Settlements Department said it cannot prioritise land invaders over those who have been on the province’s housing waiting list for years. The department stated that there are some 575 000 families on the Western Cape housing demand database.
The Western Cape Government says that despite there being such a massive backlog of housing within the province, only 18 000 housing opportunities can be delivered per year.
Du Noon, Vrygrond, Hermanus, Mitchell’s Plain, Parkwood, Gugulethu, Ocean View and Bo Kaap are just some of the areas that have been affected by protesting for land and housing. Earlier this year, thousands of people marched through Cape Town demanding land for people to build and live on. The majority of those who attended were from informal settlements. Activist group Reclaim the City is pushing for affordable housing to be made available in or near the city centre.
However, there is the concern that the protesters’ message is often distorted when demonstration turns violent.
The City of Cape said in a statement released earlier this year.
“When land is invaded, it jeopardises emergency and basic service delivery; it stretches our resources; and it prevents progressive integrated development to manage rapid urbanisation.”
The City added that it will not be held to ransom by those instigating violent and destructive land grabs.
Meanwhile, attorney at Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre Chriscy Blouws, explained that a simple demonstration can consist of less than 15 people and one does not have to fill in an application in order to have the demonstration. A gathering, however, consists of more than 15 people and an application has to be filled out at least 7 days prior and submitted to the municipality.
Blouws stated that protesters should have basic awareness and understanding of the rights involved in protest, as when people are not aware of the proper guidelines to follow, it then makes it easier for authorities to interrupt or disrupt the event. VOC