‘Please stop evicting the poor’ Sisulu pleads with landlords

Law enforcement clash with residents in Mfuleni on July 20, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. It is reported that law enforcement demolished many structures that were built illegally. The community protested and threw stones and rocks at passing cars, burnt two vehicles one belonging to the City electrical department. They also blocked the N2 highway with burning tyres. Public Order Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon to disperse the protestors. Photo by Gallo Images

Following a meeting between Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato, Sisulu pleaded for more ubuntu and less evictions.

Landlords have been urged not to evict people who cannot pay rent due to the economic crisis prompted by the lockdown, and instead practice “ubuntu”.

This is an appeal by Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, after meeting Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato on Tuesday.

Plato, in his statement after the pair met, said he had warned Sisulu about a “lack of police support for anti-land invasion operations in Cape Town” and she agreed to take this up with Police Minister Bheki Cele.

“It was agreed by all that land invasions cannot be tolerated and must be prevented. I appreciate the national minister’s support in this regard given the overwhelming coordinated nature of land invasions and related criminality,” Plato said.

Sisulu, in her statement, explained her “appeal to landlords who have been providing shelter to our people not to evict them”.

“We all understand that the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic has resulted in people losing their jobs and has hit already destitute communities particularly hard.”

In the meeting, Plato presented the City of Cape Town’s plans to address Covid-19 generally – and the “human settlements challenges in the city” in particular. Sisulu said she “welcomed the plan of the City and committed her full support and presented an overall plan that seeks to cover the various land for shelter needs for the people of the Western Cape”.

Sisulu said more work was necessary, to “respond to the insurmountable need for well-located land and human settlements for those who are in desperate need of shelter”.

A new “holistic approach” to human settlements would need to:

– Minimise incidents of illegal occupation and evictions;

– Focus on those who are genuinely distressed and not opportunists;

– Ensure those who break the law are prosecuted.

“We will screen all those invading land parcels to see if they are in distress and assist them accordingly. However, those who have broken the law will have to face the consequences,” said Sisulu.

“It is imperative that we find a balance in alleviating the plight of bona-fide and responsible tenants with landlords; we need to practice ubuntu and make arrangements with those whose income security has been affected.”

Plato said the City had “earmarked more than R850 million in the medium-term for upgrades to informal settlements and back-yarder services in response to the growing trend of informality in our metros and across the country”.

But Plato warned: “Attempts to invade land and illegally occupy City projects are threatening housing and human settlements projects to the value of some R1.3 billion. Should these projects be lost, it will not only be to the extreme detriment of potential and future beneficiaries, it is to the detriment of Cape Town as a community. The City is doing all it can to prevent the continued attempts to invade land and projects.”

Plato said “the mainstreaming of basic service delivery to informal settlements and backyard dwellers remain a key priority for the City”.

“The City’s Upgrading Informal Settlements (UIS) programme has been ongoing for many years. This has come as the City’s response to the growing trend of informality brought on by urbanisation in Cape Town as well as in the rest of South Africa’s cities.”

This approach had been developed “as a way of catering to the large-scale accommodation needs for lower income groupings and with the realisation that formal housing alone will not address the housing need in South Africa”.

“This requires a mixture of accommodation types, and the City alone cannot shoulder the impact of urbanisation on its own. It needs national government collaboration as well as more private sector partnerships,” Plato explained.

Last week, the SA Human Rights Commission called for state authorities, including police crime intelligence experts, to uncover those behind the “wave of land occupations” taking place in Cape Town.

Plato said this week: “Attempts to illegally occupy land, City projects or community facilities include several orchestrated attempts in Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Wallacedene, Delft (Blikkiesdorp), Dunoon, Firgrove (Macassar), Milnerton and Nyanga, among others.”

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