Country ‘at a tipping point’ because of illegal land occupations – Winde

Western Cape premier, Alan Winde. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde warned on Thursday that the country was at a tipping point because of illegal land occupations.

Speaking during a debate in the provincial legislature, he said many of the illegal occupations were incited by political parties or aided by NGOs (non-governmental organisations).

He said buildings meant to be converted into social housing were being occupied by people who subsequently refuse to leave for development to continue.

“The full might of the law needs to come in here,” said Winde.

“And if any member of this house – this side of the house or in the ruling party’s side or any other – we need the rule of law to be applied, and those people need to face consequences even more severely than anybody else, because we have stood up here and signed allegiance [to the Constitution].

“…Because if we are at that tipping point, if we are at that juncture, to claw back if we go over the edge is almost impossible,” said Winde on Thursday.

“You’ve got to go through absolute anarchy and riots before you come back. History has shown us that. We cannot allow this province and this country to go down that road.”

Winde also blamed some of the NGOs, who took them to court to get the sale of the Tafelberg site reversed, for the occupation of buildings around the city earmarked for social housing – such as the Woodstock Hospital and the old Helen Bowden nurses’ home.

He said unless these people moved out, no development could take place.

“It’s time to ask those people, who you actually put in, to please make way, so we can do inclusionary housing,” said Winde.

In a separate statement, Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) took issue with a statement to a committee earlier in September, saying the City of Cape Town’s MMC for Community Safety JP Smith had blamed activists for some illegal occupations in Khayelitsha.

NU said it was present at illegal shack demolitions, done without court orders in eThembeni and Makhaza during the lockdown, to protect occupiers’ constitutional rights.

“Instead of responding to the City’s role in addressing a deepening crisis of landlessness and lack of access to housing in our city, leaders like Cllr JP Smith have specifically targeted human rights defenders and prioritised the surveillance of housing activists. This is concerning,” said NU.

The tense debate in the legislature was kicked off by ACDP MPL Martin Christians, who called the land occupations “well planned and well orchestrated”.

He said between April and July, the City of Cape Town alone responded to about 220 occupations.

ANC MPL Danville Smith called for an urgent land audit, with a special focus on the Stellenbosch municipality’s leases.

He said it was a myth that the ANC supported “land grabs”, and blamed the DA for saying this to avoid accountability and its cheap sales of land to private property developers.

“The poor have lost all hope that the state will ever build them houses and have now resorted to widespread land grabs,” he said.

DA MPL Matlhodi Maseko said around R1.3 billion worth of “housing opportunities” were lost due to illegal land occupations.

She said people who “think nothing” of jumping the housing queue were holding both the government and taxpayers to ransom.

“They prey on the desperate through shack farming, which they know will only bring people into conflict with the law. They work with political opportunists, whose platform is about personal gain rather than respect for the Constitution.

Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers said that illegally moving on to land earmarked for housing meant that a chance for somebody on the waiting list to get a house was gone forever.

He implored Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille to release tracts of land the province needs for its social housing.

Construction was about to begin on the long-awaited Conradie site in Cape Town, but he said in some cases, where land had been released, the power of attorney was not released, so development stalled.

So far, some of the land the province had lost for earmarked projects included land occupied in Khayelitsha, Macassar, Harare, Kuyasa and Maroela Park.

A finely-negotiated agreement over a piece of land in Schulphoek in Hermanus was on hold after a section had been occupied, which means beneficiaries in neighbouring Zwelihle will lose out.

“Wake up and smell the coffee,” said Simmers.

GOOD MPL Brett Heron said the DA government believed there was no room for poor people in central Cape Town.

A former DA member, Heron said the province should already be working on inner-city opportunities on land in Sea Point, the City Bowl, and even a government garage site on Roeland Street.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.




today in print

today in print