R10-million to stop City land invasions

8 06 2009

Brenda Nkuna
Jun 8, 2009

The City of Cape Town is spending R10-million in the current financial year to fund its Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU) in an effort to safeguard housing projects it says “are being threatened by systematically planned and executed land invasions”.

But anti-eviction organisations have slammed the unit, saying the money could be better spent elsewhere and that it is leading to “war” between communities and the city.

The ALIU – established to monitor, stop and evict those who attempt to erect shacks illegally – dealt with 29 land invasions during the 2008/2009 financial year, said ALIU head Steve Hayward.

This number included 17 in Helderberg, six in Tygerberg, two in the South/Central region and four in Blaauwberg.

Hayward said in all 29 land invasions the unit had acted immediately and succeeded in removing people from city-owned land.

Hayward said the unit had obtained eight court interdicts to prevent people from further occupying land.

In the latest high profile incident, Macassar backyarders invaded city-owned land on May 19. The invasion saw rubber bullets being fired by police and the backyarders being evicted from the land. In total, four people were arrested.

Hayward said in the Macassar case, structures had been taken down and building material confiscated, but that these materials had been returned to the backyarders on Wednesday last week (03/06/2009).

Macassar backyarders have argued that their eviction from the land was illegal, but Hayward denied this, arguing that the backyarders had attempted to take land in an unlawful manner.

He said the law provided no protection to people who sought to illegally invade land.

He said a court order was only required for the demolition of occupied shacks. In the Macassar case the structures which were dismantled were all still in the course of being erected and not occupied.

But Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) spokesman Mncedisi Twalo said he was “upset” by the way the ALIU had treated backyarders and warned of mobilisation in the Western Cape due to what he described as people being “unfairly” treated.

He said while expensive infrastructure such as malls were built, there were thousands in need of houses. Cape Town’s housing backlog is estimated at 400,000.

Twalo criticised the money allocated to the ALIU, arguing that “so much money could have been used to build houses, instead of going to a unit that has formed war between communities and the city”.

He accused the unit of being “arrogant” and treating people badly when dealing with land invasions.

In a press release issued on Thursday, the city said a number of housing projects were scheduled for completion in the next few years and there was concern “these projects are being threatened by systematically planned and executed land invasions”.

The upcoming financial year would see work beginning on 16,280 “housing opportunities” and R68-million had been allocated for the purchase of land.

Some of the biggest projects included 1,350 units in Happy Valley Phase 2, 3,500 units in Bardale , 2,850 units in Nonqubela and 1,650 units in Wallacedene.

“While remaining strictly within the confines of the law, the City’s Anti Land Invasion Unit is determined to repel these invasions under the supervision of the Metro Police and the SAPS,” the city said. — West Cape News

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