According to director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, Stuart Wilson, the waiting period on the City of Cape Town’s housing list is roughly 60 years.

Having recently represented residents of the Marikana informal settlement in Philippi, Wilson spoke at the second day of a policing and social justice dialogue at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha on September 29.

“The city’s current delivery rate for housing is 6 000 a year. There are currently just over 350 000 people on the housing list. This means that you will have to wait about 60 years for a house if no one else joins the list. I had a 70-year-old client with six children who couldn’t wait that long,” said Wilson.

Wilson told the audience how the group, mostly backyarders from Crossroads, had occupied the vacant land in Philippi East in 2012. He said police brutality, while evicting the group, had “made the settlement famous” and had earned its name, which residents believed mirrored the violence at Marikana platinum mine.

“What started as a group of 20 or 30 people, over time grew to 60 000 because the state didn’t want to engage the first group of people and find out what their needs were. This situation was as a result of the state’s refusal to plan for poor people who needed a small piece of land to call home,” Wilson said.

The Western Cape High Court handed down a controversial and important judgement concerning the Marikana informal settlement in Philippi  on August 30. The judgment, which decided the outcome of three separate applications, found that the city had violated its constitutional obligations to both the owners and occupiers of the land.

The city was ordered by the court to enter into negotiations to purchase the occupied land, and to consider expropriation if no agreement could be reached. The court also ordered that the national and provincial government must provide funds for the purchase of the properties if the cost exceeded the city’s budget.

Wilson said that although the ruling was a victory for residents, it had serious future implications for the city.

“Buying this private property has complications. The owners wanted the city to buy the land at the price it would’ve been before the occupation. We disagreed with this because the owners also were responsible for not fencing their property or using their land, in a country where the need for housing is so great. It would be wrong for them to profit from this occupation,” he said.

Wilson said that should the owners and the state not come to an agreements on a price for the land, it could be expropriated.

“The state is not being truthful when they say they don’t have land,” he said.

Wilson said the judgment “sets a precedent for other settlements who could now use the Housing Act to ask the city to expropriate the land they are occupying”.

Khayelitsha resident Edna Nguwane said during Wilson’s presentation: “It was great what you did for the people in Marikana, but we have the same problem here in Site C. More people are moving into the community and the police are using the same violence when they break their shacks. There is no housing here, so where will our children live?”


Photography GroundUp

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