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Law Enforcement Is In A War With Illegal Land Residents

shacks

A war has erupted between law enforcement and South Africans who are desperate for housing. Protests involving petrol bombs and stoning have erupted as Cape Town sees many evictions and illegal land invasions happen across the Province.

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A war has been raged in Kraaifontein, Cape Town, between the police and South African citizens who are occupying land illegally. A petrol bomb was thrown at law enforcement from the residents during a protest against police destroying shacks in the community.

Those being evicted say that Government hasn’t given them proper housing in Kraaifontein and this is why they were building housing for themselves on privately owned land.

These protests and acts of violence have been happening for three weeks. Linda Phito, a Community activist, said that, “law enforcement started to shoot the people, and the people start to fight back”.

Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi, said “ The level of criminality we are seeing in Kraaifontein, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Mfuleni and other areas where people are attempting land invasions, is an act that is not acceptable, and we condemn it” as he speaks from the view of the City of Cape Town.

He also said that there has been housing development in the area and that what those who have occupied the land were lying. “Social housing is part of a development being undertaken in this area with an investment of millions of rand”, said Booi.

Booi said that currently, there are 2000 housing units being put up next to the land called the ‘Marula Project’. However, due to delays from Covid-19, this project could not be completed and that the City of Cape Town has made a big investment in that area.

As to why things aren’t being done, he said that there is not enough money in the budget to help all communities in Cape Town at the same time. “We are trying to balance every community and allow projects across the city.”, he explained further.

The Mayoral Committee Member also said that these invasions and resulting violence could be because of competition in local government and that it’s being used “as a rallying point”.

SAPS is also not helping the City of Cape Town with the violence, said Booi, and the City feels abandoned and wants the police to “act on these people”.

However, if one should look at the view of the civilian you will see the struggle and lack of jobs and financing that has been further affected by the pandemic and national lockdown.

People have been unable to pay rent and they then saw the open land in Kraaifontein and decided to build their houses there as Phito further said, “People are not right to build and people are not wrong to build”.

A way forward suggested by the activist is that Government should listen to the people occupying the land, listen to their issues and then make a plan from there.

During the period of April and July, there were 260 illegal land occupation the City had to deal with. Some settlements were drowned due to the storms experienced in the Province which has these individuals have to relocate as well.

In June, a man was also dragged out of his shack in Khayelitsha while he was naked.

Law enforcement has not only been engaged in violence with those in Kraaifontein, but across other areas of the province as well. Government has said that they need more help from SAPS to solve the issue of land invasion and those arrested should have repercussions while those occupying the land feel like they are being treated like animals.

Many law enforcement officers have been injured during the altercations, and so are residents of the land.

MEC for Community Safety, Albert Fritz, said "In many cases, the land being occupied is already designated for services aimed at developing the communities and, therefore, undermines the community in which it takes place”.

Roads and infrastructures are being damaged as well and residents not involved in the protests are also being placed at risk during the protests. More than R1.3 billion of housing projects are under threat as well.

It was also seen that they aren’t able to hand over houses to people as it’s being prevented by other civilians. MEC for Human Settlements, Tertius Simmers, said, "It has become clear that those who are complicit and involved in these illegal events only have criminal intentions”.

South Africans are not supposed to be evicted during a disaster declared by Government, as stated in The Disaster Management Act, but the act also does not allow land to be occupied illegally.

Reacting to the current situation, a resident who is not a part of those occupying land or the law enforcement has said that law enforcement engaging in violence as a way to solve the issue and Government wanting to take away these structures just ends up increasing levels of poverty and violence by having Cape Town residents feel that they have nowhere to live.

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