NOTICE | Emma Louise Powell: This is why Cape Town adopted the illegal occupancy by-law

A recent protest outside the Cape Town Civic Center after the city approved two bylaws, one dealing with the homeless.

Cape Town has introduced a new regulation because the Prevention of Unlawful Evictions (PIE) Act was not designed to cope with current large-scale realities, writes Emma Louise Powell.

Illegal land occupations have become a crisis across South Africa. Put into perspective, since January last year, 13,900 illegal land invasions have taken place in Cape Town alone, with more than 67,200 illegal structures erected. 57,000 pickets were removed by the police. The Western Cape has spent 355.8 million rand to secure the sites against invasion.

Despite the disproportionate attention this problem receives in Cape Town due to the political imperatives of organizations such as Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim and the City, land occupations remain a serious problem on all major metros.

Newspapers and online media are teeming with photos and reports of Metropolitan Police operations in South African cities, with recent photos of the MEC for Community Safety in Gauteng standing in a field among structures demolished indicating that land occupations will not be tolerated.

The Prevention of Unlawful Evictions Act (PIE) was not designed to address the current realities of large-scale and often unionized professions.

Legal loopholes

Under this law, courts frequently order municipalities to provide people evicted from the private and public sectors with alternative accommodation. This allows people to occupy land, or tenants to remain residents of housing they cannot afford, knowing they will be housed by the state if evicted. This, despite the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding South Africans patiently waiting for housing databases. Most recently, the City of Cape Town has been tasked with providing those evicted from the private sector with formal accommodation in Woodstock or in the city center. These legal loopholes are neither fair nor lasting.

As such, municipalities in South Africa generally rely on the common law principle of counter-spoliation to stop illegal occupations of land. If a landowner is able to act and evict an illegal occupant before he can establish a “/ news24 / home” (which is not defined in the law), the appeal succeeds. Unfortunately, in the context of the state of disaster and a recent High Court ban, it is becoming increasingly difficult for municipalities like Cape Town to rely on this remedy. An incredibly small window of opportunity now exists for the city or SAPS to stop land invaders – something many illegal occupants understand all too well – as evidenced by the large plots of land lost in Drifstands, Khayelitsha, Delft , Kraaifontein and Dunoon.

Our crisis of illegal land tenure is compounded by the economic crisis in South Africa, which has resulted in continued budget cuts to frontline services by the Treasury. 2.26 billion rand was wiped out of the housing budget in Parliament last year.

Cape Town was not spared the impact. In May of last year, the city suffered a subsidy reduction of R115 million. In August, another 118 million rand. Of this amount, R84 million was cut from their housing budget, R19 million from their budget for informal settlements and R15 million from planning.

Despite these challenges, Cape Town continues to make progress with the planned formal housing programs. The DA-led Western Cape has created more than 231,000 homes in the province since 2009, with more than 60,000 delivered in Cape Town since 2012. There are more than 6,500 social housing units in the metro’s immediate delivery pipeline.

Despite the progress made, no sphere of government can build houses at a rate that meets the needs of our citizens. Much innovative work is underway to strengthen the housing supply in DA-run subways, but without sufficient land and budget made available by the national government, illegal land occupations will continue to spiral out of control.

Regulations implemented

It is for this reason that the Cape Town Council was forced to promulgate the Illegal Occupation Regulation and make changes to other regulations, such as the Streets, Public Places and the prevention of nuisances. This will ensure that Cape Town remains economically viable, while providing immediate social assistance to the city’s poorest residents.

These bylaws now allow the City to impose fines on people who erect structures in public spaces if they refuse a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation. Combined with the city’s policy on people on the streets, homeless residents will continue to be offered a range of social assistance, including space in a well-managed shelter; three meals a day; and the necessary toiletries. Drug addiction treatment, EPWP work opportunities and vocational training, family reunification services and social assistance such as identity registrations and SASSA are also offered.

Thanks to three new “safe spaces” created by the city’s social development department, the city has already increased its accommodation capacity by almost 1,000. R50 million has also been provided to organizations working with groups. vulnerable, such as private shelters.

The DA and the City of Cape Town assume that no one should live on the streets for a period of time and that every action of the city should be aimed at helping people to rebuild their lives off the streets by receiving Social Assistance. .

If sensible and healthy governance fails in this regard, our public places suffer from urban decay, more businesses close, divestments take place, jobs are lost and more people end up on the streets. This is a race to the bottom that no city will survive in the end.

– Emma Louise Powell is DA MP.

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