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Western Cape Human Settlements on land invasion

24 May 2021

Our data reveals that there have been no attempts at illegal invasions of state land in any of the non-Metro areas, while the Metro has recorded 94 attempts since the second week of April 2021.

This is notably down in comparison to the statistics available for the comparable period last year. Between July 2020, when numerous unlawful land invasions commenced, to the end of the second week of May 2021, there had been 1 177 attempted land invasions of state-owned land.

That startling statistic caused us to take immediate and proactive steps to secure our land and protect it, with vigilance. The massive reduction in the number of attempts shows that our efforts to prevent these invasions and secure provincially owned land and properties are starting to bear fruit.

However, we remain concerned.

Firstly, land that has been invaded was, in many instances, earmarked for the delivery of housing or other critical services for our most vulnerable residents. The effect of the invasion means a small group has jumped the queue with respect to the allocation of land, often at the expense of others including those who are patiently waiting their turn on the housing data base. Once land is occupied,  basic services must be delivered, and more often than not result in long, drawn-out and costly evictions, which do not result in the land ever being vacated, but rather simply result in additional obligations being placed on the state with respect to the provision of services or emergency housing, etc., often skewing the allocation of budget and pipeline of housing opportunities in that process.  

Secondly, this has come at a great cost, with the Western Cape Government having already spent R 400 million to protect its property.

This means, with the exclusion of the bulk services, more than 2 400 Breaking New Ground (BNG)/free housing units could’ve been built.

The bottom line is that these invasions hurt the poor the most, as they severely impact our ability to deliver housing opportunities to already identified, deserving, qualifying and potential beneficiaries that have patiently and legally been waiting on the Housing Demand Database (HDD).

We are doing whatever we can to prevent invasions going forward. This is why we’re also in court, seeking to ensure that the legal remedy of counter-spoliation, which recognises an owner's right to immediately retake possession of unlawfully seized property, without first having to approach a court  remains part of our common law. 

It is critical that property owners, including the state remain legally enabled to protect their assets against all forms of illegal activity, especially those which have a direct impact on the delivery of services to other, vulnerable members of our society, who have not embraced unlawful means by which to ensure they get access to land. This is not to be confused with any support for acts of  vigilantism, nor unlawful eviction action, but rather simply the promotion of the use of a legitimate, robust means by which property owners can act to  retain control over their vacant land in the face of often well co- ordinated attempts to unlawfully occupy it. 

I would like to urge landowners, both public and private, to ensure that their land and other properties are fully protected against invasion attempts, and that criminal cases are opened against those who are encouraging, leading and participating in these unlawful activities. It is important that the criminal element behind these invasions face the full might of the law.

National Government, particularly the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) who is the custodian of all nationally owned land should also heed this call, as it is the warehouse of much of the remaining state land available for future service delivery, and invasions thereof will continue to have disastrous implications for the state’s ability to effectively plan and deliver in the future.

We should not lose sight of the fact that it takes in excess of 1 500 days for a brand-new Human Settlements project to be completed to the point of handover to beneficiaries. This means we cannot afford these delays that will only increase the waiting period for our vulnerable citizens that are desperate need to improve their circumstances.

We’re constantly seeing how projects are delayed due to these invasions. In fact, the delivery of housing opportunities can be delayed by 3 months to 5 years, and in rare instances even longer. Having the elderly, individuals living with medically certified disabilities, those who’ve been on the Housing Demand Database (HDD) for 15 years and longer and backyard dwellers, wait even longer due to these illegal invasions is unacceptable.

It is also important that we receive assistance from our citizenry to avoid these  invasions. The more the various stakeholders, including the different spheres of government- and especially our national law enforcement agencies- work together, the more we can ensure that these illegal invasions are prevented.

Those with a genuine housing need must ensure that they are registered on the housing demand database and if they are, to regularly verify and update their details. This can be done on the WCG App which is available on all iOS and Android platforms for download or they can visit their nearest housing office. In addition to this, they should also engage the relevant structures such as Project Steering Committees (PSC’s) and Ward Councillors to receive factual information, and not allow those with ill intentions to mislead them.

As the Western Cape Government, we remain committed to accelerating human settlement delivery, while promoting social inclusion through the development of integrated, resilient, safe and sustainable human settlements in an open opportunity society.

Media Enquiries:
Marcellino Martin
Spokesperson for Minister Tertuis Simmers
E-mail: Marcellino.martin@westerncape.gov.za
Tel: 021 483 3397
Cell: 082 721 3362 

Or

Nathan Adriaanse
Director Communication & Stakeholder Relations
Tel: 021 483 2868
Cell: 083 2631720
Email: Nathan.Adriaanse@westerncape.gov.za

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