The man struggles to get back in his shack.

The man struggles to get back in his shack.

While The City of Cape Town acknowledges that a man in Khayelitsha was subjected to shameful treatment on Wednesday, it is struggling with a rash of land occupations, writes City of Cape Town Executive Mayor Dan Plato.  

Having watched the video of law enforcement officers responding to an illegal land invasion in Khayelitsha on Wednesday, and the shameful circumstances that Mr Bulelani Qholani was subjected to, I want to make it clear that this is not the type of conduct that we tolerate in this City.

This is why we have immediately suspended four officers while the matter is investigated without delay.

While the investigation into the conduct of the law enforcement officers and the circumstances surrounding the situation is ongoing, as the mayor, I want to acknowledge that Mr Qholani’s dignity was impaired and I am truly sorry for what he experienced.

It is also important to address the misinformation shared so easily on social media. While evictions are not permitted under the lockdown, the courts, as well as the national Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, have made it clear that municipalities across South Africa have a duty to prevent illegal land invasions.

Responding to a request 

This particular area in Khayelitsha was illegally invaded during the first weeks of the national lockdown and the City responded to requests from the local community to remove the illegally erected structures. The City-owned land has been earmarked for the installation of services for the surrounding community.

A local NGO and legal support structure took the City to court to prevent the removal of the illegal structures set up. The judge ruled that while the City had not been in breach of any regulations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he would allow the 49 structures that had already been erected to remain there temporarily during the lockdown.

The judge also emphasised that the City has a responsibility to protect the land against invasion and is allowed to remove any new illegally erected structures with immediate effect. Since then, there have been near-daily attempts to further invade the land.

Our officers have a responsibility to conduct themselves with professionalism, and to respect our residents at all times, regardless of any provocation or resistance to cooperate. At the same time, our officers need to know that if they carry out their duties professionally when enforcing the law, they will have the full support of this administration and all law-abiding residents.

More resources 

Efforts to prevent illegal land invasions across South Africa require an increasing amount of resources from local municipalities and provinces. From 2018 to date, 357 hectares of private and public land have been invaded in Cape Town alone.

Earlier this week I wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa, requesting that he call an urgent meeting with all spheres of government to address a sustainable and coordinated way forward as the limited resources allocated to municipalities, combined with legislative constraints, make the prevention of unlawful land occupation increasingly difficult.

– Dan Plato is the Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town. 

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