South Africa


City of Cape Town earmarks millions for private security to halt land occupations

City of Cape Town earmarks millions for private security to halt land occupations
City of Cape Town law enforcement officials watch evicted residents in Mfuleni, Cape Town, on 20 July 2020. (Photo:Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Land occupations have surged, slowing down housing development projects, and forcing the City of Cape Town to allocate R16-million to secure sites. Mayoral committee member Malusi Booi told the City’s Human Settlements Committee on Thursday morning that the money was needed for private security.

The City of Cape Town’s Human Settlements Department has reprioritised R16-million to prevent land occupations, which it says have delayed much-needed housing development projects in the metro.

“I have asked the directorate to reprioritise money for private security. We have secured R16-million where we’ll safeguard our sites, that’s why attempts [to occupy land recently] in Mfuleni haven’t succeeded,” said Mayoral Committee member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi at Thursday’s City of Cape Town Human Settlements Committee meeting. 

Booi was responding to ANC councillor Rhoda-Ann Bazier’s question about recent land occupations. “I see it’s affecting a few [housing] projects because it means money won’t be spent,” said Bazier. 

Booi did not give details about the private security that was being deployed or where it would be positioned but in September he told the provincial Human Settlements committee that the hotspots for land occupations in the City were in Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Delft, Kraaifontein, Philippi and Dunoon.

In a City of Cape Town Human Settlements report on current and planned projects, land occupations are blamed as the cause for delays in housing projects. 

In Mfuleni, the Better Life greenfield site, which is envisaged to provide “117 housing opportunities to qualifying beneficiaries in the surrounding area”, has been delayed by the land occupations, reads the report. Construction started in March 2020. 

The report, which was done a month ago, further notes that: “A surge in illegal land invasions poses a threat to project programme, cost and time. [The] matter [is] being monitored and engagement with relevant stakeholders under way.”

In Wallacedene in Kraaifontein, a settlement holds approximately 150 households, which are “exposed to poor living conditions, with structures found in highly densified configurations. The densification prevents residents’ accessibility to minimal municipal and emergency services”, the report says.

The City plans to provide Wallacedene with 269 serviced sites with water, sewer and electricity reticulation; a road network, stormwater runoff, individual standpipes and toilet structures. This project started in January 2020, with a completion date of March 2021.

Land occupations in Kraaifontein, Enkanini in Khayelitsha, and Driftsand in Mfuleni have also threatened the City’s housing projects. 

Since lockdown, there have been more than 200 land occupations in the City of Cape Town. 

Under lockdown where evictions were prohibited, many backyard dwellers were evicted after losing their income. Some occupied land, but the City insisted that the increasing land occupations were politically motivated and not due to the need for housing. 

While the City demolished structures on occupied land, housing organisations like the Social Justice Coalition condemned the City for leaving people homeless during the pandemic and amid a housing crisis. 

In a radio interview, Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers said that there were 600,000 people on the provincial housing waiting list: At least 65% of those on the waiting list are from the City of Cape Town.

At a provincial human settlements meeting, JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said R1.3-billion worth of housing developments were currently threatened by land occupations. 

But during Thursday’s committee meeting Anwa Adams, a Democratic Independent Party (DIP) councillor, said, “Land invasions are a tricky topic but what I’d like to know is where there have been land invasions and people are settling in, what do we do about basic services? We know they’ve invaded but we’re talking about human beings, they need water and electricity.”

In 2018 occupiers from New Monwabisi Park in Khayelitsha marched to the Civic Centre, demanding that the City provide them with basic services. Councillor at the time, Xanthea Limberg said that they were committed to providing basic services in informal settlements.

The DA’s Xolani Joja said that because the land occupations were often on private land the City couldn’t provide basic services without the owner’s consent. 

Joja used the example of Prasa-owned land being occupied in Philippi. “Even if the City wanted to, we can’t provide basic services to the occupiers without Prasa’s permission,” said Joja. Prasa had also declined the City’s offer to demolish the structures.

Although Joja agreed with Adams that services were needed, “providing basic services to land occupiers would be condoning land invasions because people will invade today and ask for basic services the next day”, said Joja.

The Khayelitsha Community Action Network has called the “deprivation of basic services” for occupiers a “gross violation of human rights”.

But Riana Pretorius, the director of informal settlements in the City of Cape Town’s Human Settlements Department, said a number of things needed to happen before an informal settlement can receive basic services. She told the committee that assessments needed to be made and consultations required with the Water and Waste Department.

Booi added that the City was providing basic services, where it can, with a reduced budget. DM

Daily Maverick has submitted queries to the City of Cape Town for details about the private security plans.

In an earlier version of this story we indicated that the City had secured R60-million to safeguard the site. This has been changed to R16-million after the City pointed out that this was the correct figure. We apologise for the error.


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