Since the start of this year, there has been 145 protests in the City of Cape Town, according to South African Police Services (SAPS). This shows a 73% increase in protest action which has progressively grown more violent.
Alderman JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, said the City’s own statistics corroborate this trend. “To discourage people from settling on land that is not suitable for human habitation, the Anti-land Invasion Unit removes, on average, 15 000 illegal structures and pegs per annum,” he said. “In the first four months of 2018, that figure is standing at over 26 000.”
The City has called for a multi-agency Priority Committee to deal with protests. Housing remains the biggest issues among protestors.
Smith said, more than R850-million has been earmarked for various informal settlement upgrades and incremental development programs for 2020/21, excluding the additional funding allocated to formal housing projects.
“Invaded land often jeopardises emergency and basic service delivery and a variety of future projects to improve the living conditions of residents.”
Residents who invade land often have to deal with extreme flood, fire, health and safety risks when settling illegally on land which has not been earmarked for human settlement.
Another issue is vulnerable people who are duped into pay for ‘plots’ by unscrupulous individuals. “These ‘plots’ are in most cases are unsuitable for any sort of settlement,” Smith said. “Land grabs are also often followed by demands for the installation of underground and other services which could impede the planned upgrade of informal settlements in other areas.”
SAPS have identified 34 protest conflict areas, and have also deployed a large amount of resources to quell these violent protests. The resources deployed have yet to be quantified, but it is estimated to cost tens of thousands of rands.
Last week alone there were protests in Vrygrond, Parkwood, Bo-Kaap, Ocean View, Gugulethu, Macassar, Khayelitsha, Robert Sobukwe Road and 35th Avenue, Milnerton, Dunoon and Mitchells Plain which resulted in the arrest of 115 suspects. SAPS has indicated that they are opposing bail – a position that the City strongly supports.
“We will continue to support SAPS in terms of public order policing. The City is dispatching as many resources as it is able in order to deal with the violent nature of the protest action, ” Smith said. “We are also making available additional budget in the next three financial years to employ more Metro Police and Law Enforcement staff and we are also investigating what kind of technological contribution we are able to make to further enhance enforcement efforts.”
The City understands that there are communities with legitimate service delivery concerns, and it is becoming more apparent that many of these legitimate issues are being taken advantage of by individuals with criminal intent. And even though they respect the right of communities to protest, they do not condone the destruction of public property.
Those who can provide anonymous information on land invasions are urged to call the Public Emergency Communication Centre on 107 from a landline or on 021 480 7700 from a cell phone.
Picture: Supplied/Wayne Dyason