Land invasions hampering delivery – Dan Plato

Cape Town mayor says R162m water pipeline project in Khayelitsha now on hold

Residents and councillors must work together to make things better

30 July 2020

Colleagues, councillors, members of the public, the media, speaker, before we start today, I would like to send my condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of Mr Zwakala, a law enforcement officer who was killed while off duty earlier this week. I also wanted to extend my condolences to all the families, friends and loved ones of all those who have passed away from the Coronavirus over recent weeks.

Speaker, I think we can all agree that July has been a tough month. The country is starting to really feel the impact of the national lockdown now, and here in Cape Town we have been under siege with illegal land invasions that have left both public infrastructure and private businesses in ruin in parts of the City. We thank our frontline staff, some of whom are putting their bodies on the line for residents. We pray especially for our staff who are in hospital with serious injuries.

Speaker, while it was essential to give our health systems those crucial first weeks to prepare for the wave of Covid-19 infections that would have otherwise overrun our hospitals and caused many more deaths, the economic devastation that has been brought about by the extended national lockdown is going to have a much bigger impact for months, and probably years to come.

National government can no longer ignore the legitimate concerns of industries which are able to open safely but remain mostly locked down and restricted.  Government must listen to the calls of the hospitality, tourism, wine and other major sectors. Any business that can open safely should be allowed to do so.

In Cape Town and the Western Cape, we are working hard to maintain South Africa’s lowest unemployment rate, and to support local economic recovery. Earlier this week I handed out thousands of support kits, which included cloth face masks, hand sanitiser and important safety information, to informal traders so they can continue to trade safely. This follows another several thousand kits handed out to SMMEs over recent weeks.

Today we take another step forward in securing Cape Town as a Greentech capital with the proposal to transfer property valued of R56 million to the Western Cape Government for the continued development of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). By taking this step, thousands of job opportunities will be unlocked and billions will be added to the regional economy over the next 15 years.

In the short term, let us remember that by working together, we can mitigate the damage of the national lockdown. Councillors have a vital role to play in being the link between your communities and this administration. You need to know what is required in your communities, what your residents are saying, and make sure that we deliver.

I have also noted with concern the serious allegations of corruption taking place elsewhere in the country regarding procurement for COVID-19 relief, including personal protective equipment, transport equipment and others. It is disappointing that a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic is abused for personal gain and funds intended to help those most in need cannot be accounted for.

The residents of Cape Town can rest assured that every cent spent in this administration can be accounted for, as the Auditor General confirms with our clean and unqualified audits.

Under the DA, we are the only metro administration in the country that has received consecutive unqualified audit findings since we were elected to govern in 2006 – something that our residents can be proud of.

This is a difficult fact for the ANC caucus to swallow, because they can’t point to a record like that in any ANC-governed metro. To make things worse for the ANC, the City’s most recent audit had no material irregular findings, so the ANC try and go back further. But they are disappointed speaker, because the AG’s findings from previous financial years are of a technical nature, and every single cent of City funds was spent on services and value for the public.

Before the DA were given the mandate by the people of Cape Town to run this city, the ANC almost ran the city into the ground with fraud, tender rigging and rampant corruption.

It was only after the DA took the reins from the ANC in 2006 that we were able to avoid ‘a financial meltdown,’ as it was reported back then, and set the administration on a road that would see us receiving clean audits and numerous awards for the best services in the country.

That’s not to say that we don’t still have work to do. We can always do better, and that is what we strive to do. Councillors represent their communities at various committee meetings, sub council engagements, budget meetings, ratepayers’ AGMs and public gatherings. The public need to know who their councillors are and work with them to make sure their communities gets the service that they expect.

We will achieve so much more if we all work together, so be mindful of those who mischievously spread misinformation.

Speaker, on today’s council agenda is a proposal to make land in Khayelitsha available for the building of a private hospital. We are pleased to be driving progress using these properties for the community of Khayelitsha.

The City is constantly planning for the future. This is why we are seriously concerned about the R162 million water pipeline to Khayelitsha which is being derailed by land invasions. This pipeline will strengthen water pressure and supply for future housing projects.

Residents cannot afford to have this project fail, and they should be assured that it is of high priority to the City as well.

While we have yet to calculate the full costs of the current spate of land invasions, we have already seen a R50 million housing project in Makhaza lost to land invaders this past weekend, and we have determined that attempts to invade land and illegally occupy City projects are threatening housing and human settlements projects to the value of R1,3 billion.

This is not even factoring in the MyCiTi buses, stations, play park equipment, COVID-19 facilities, community halls, dial-a-ride vehicle, fire truck, and other city infrastructure that has been damaged, torched and destroyed.

One thing is clear though - we simply cannot afford to keep rebuilding that which is destroyed. Our budget is committed to projects and programmes and we cannot just cancel these plans to replace infrastructure that thugs and rioters destroy. I feel for these communities and I want to call on them to report those who are causing this havoc. You don’t need to tell us your name, just give us the information.

I also want to call on those who have invaded land and said that they were evicted by their landlords – this is not allowed during the lockdown and you need to return to your former place of residence. If your landlord refuses access you must report them to the South African Police Service (SAPS).

I am glad that the National Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, in our meeting earlier this week, agreed that land invasions cannot be allowed and that municipalities have a duty to protect their land. Minister Sisulu also agreed to speak to her colleague, Bheki Cele, the National Minister of Police, about supporting our anti-land invasion operations and providing increased policing support in Cape Town.

Speaker, I am very concerned at the ongoing double speak of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), who have asked the courts to prevent us from carrying out anti-land invasion operations.

On the one hand, regional commissioner Chris Nissen claims to condemn land invasions. But yet the SAHRC is in court asking for the common law right to protect property to be declared unlawful.

The SAHRC is asking the High Court for an interdict preventing landowners from removing empty, unoccupied structures as a means of protecting property from invasion.

The commission also seeks the voiding of all existing court orders permitting the City to protect specific sites from illegal invasion.

This will set a dangerous precedent and goes far beyond what the Constitution allows.

I note the SAPS state in their court papers that the SAHRC’s application is “misguided, fundamentally flawed, and constitutes an abuse of this court’s processes”.

Based on recent conduct, it is clear that the SAHRC in the Western Cape is playing politics at the expense of their reputation. Instead of abusing the mandate of a Chapter 9 institution, the Western Cape branch should rather register with the IEC for next year’s local elections.

Chapter 9 institutions have been given important responsibilities in South Africa and I urge the SAHRC to consider the negative impact of their application on Cape Town and South Africa as a whole.

Land invasions derail housing and service projects, lead to the pollution of waterways, severely prejudice deserving housing beneficiaries, and cause property owners to lose their investments over night. If the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), who are supporting the SARHC in the court matter, were serious about protecting people’s rights, they would be looking to prevent illegal land invasions, which take away the rights of law abiding citizens.

Speaker, it would seem that the rights of people impacted by illegal land invasion have been forgotten by the Human Rights Commission and the LRC, and one must start asking whether the funders of the LRC are in support of their fight against law abiding residents.

I have seen how having played dirty politics for several months now, and using bully tactics, the LRC now want to play victim all of a sudden.

Speaker, it is clear that many thousands of residents are silently bearing the severe impact of land invasions due to the unlawful actions of a relatively small group of people who occupy land illegally.\

My message to the overwhelming majority of law-abiding residents is this: Rest assured that the City will keep standing up for you.

Residents can be proud of what Cape Town has achieved in preparing for the peak of the coronavirus as One City Together.

I am grateful to all the City staff, the service providers, and our partners in provincial government, who have worked day and night to ready health facilities, ensure that testing facilities are easily accessible, distribute thousands of support packs for small businesses to re-open safely, provide food aid to thousands of residents in need, and adapt the way we work so that we can continue to deliver services. We achieved all this with the support of our residents who are doing their part to stay safe too.

We now need national government to start removing the restrictive national regulations and allow economies to properly open up again. The limitations still in place are clearly doing more harm than good. I hear from our councillors every day about the hardships faced by local businesses in their communities, and the struggles they face as they are prevented from trading safely.

Lastly, I hope that everyone has by now seen that the iconic Adderley Street fountain is flowing once again. During Cape Town’s worst drought in recent history, the fountain was temporarily switched off. Let its restoration be a small symbol of hope and renewal for us in these times. Thanks must go to Councillor Dave Bryant and a number of city officials for their efforts. Progress is possible, and we can overcome the hardships we face as One City Together.

Thank you

Issued by Greg Wagner, Spokesperson to the Executive Mayor, 30 July 2020