Land invasion: Call for more Public Order Policing – Dan Plato

Cape Town mayor says City standing firm against illegal land invasions but cannot do it alone

Cape Town calls for more Public Order Policing support to protect public land from illegal invasion

4 September 2020

‘We all saw the nature of recent Cape Town land invasions in the media and our neighbourhoods, and the huge spike of well-organised invasion attempts in over 30 different parts of the metro. Within our limited resources, we are standing firm against land invasions, but we cannot do it alone. We need Public Order Policing support to protect land intended for housing, community facilities, schools, transport, and basic services,’ said Mayor Plato.

There are 135 fewer public order policing officials in the Western Cape since 2018 according to a 17 July parliamentary question response by Minister of Police Bheki Cele.

Mayor Plato previously wrote to the National Police Commissioner Kehla Sithole on 28 August on sending more public order policing support to Cape Town. In June, the Mayor called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to coordinate an urgent response to the national crisis of land invasions.

In the City’s presentation to the committee, Mayor Plato raised further concerns about the R1,3 billion in housing projects currently under threat of invasion. The Mayor also raised concerns with MPs about the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) High Court bid to declare counter-spoliation unlawful, and for the common law to be amended.

If the SAHRC application succeeds, the impact on all municipalities and the custodians of state land in the country as a whole will be devastating. Metro governments and national human settlements colleagues need to take heed of these dangerous developments.

Alderman JP Smith explained to the committee that counter-spoliation is a right that an owner has in terms of South African common law to re-take possession of a property that is in the process of being unlawfully invaded. 

The right to counter-spoliate is vital to the City’s land protection efforts as time is often of the essence in removing unoccupied structures during land invasions without a court order. For evictions and the demolition of occupied structures, court orders are obtained in line with the law.

‘If the City is unable to protect public land earmarked for housing, healthcare, schools and transport, basic services would be permanently lost to unlawful land occupations with devastating consequences. If the SAHRC is successful, it could be that the extent of unlawful land occupation on public land would be so extensive to the point of undermining all the State’s housing plans and the City’s Integrated Development Plan,’ said Alderman JP Smith.

Dangerous agenda to drive single police service

Alderman Smith further rejected a seemingly preconceived attempt by Committee Chair Tina Joemat-Petersen MP to drive the dangerous single police service agenda.

‘We reject the clearly pre-conceived ‘resolution’ raised by the chair that Law Enforcement should be integrated into Metro Police.  This cannot and will not happen.  The only reason the ANC and national government want to incorporate Law Enforcement into Metro Police is so that they can seize control of them as well when they attempt to seize control over Metro Police during their intended and imminent amendment of the Police Services Act to achieve a centralised single police service against all available best practice,’ said Smith.

Issued by Greg Wagner, Spokesperson to the Executive Mayor, 4 September 2020