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STATEMENT BY MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR SAFETY AND SECURITY; AND SOCIAL SERVICES, ALDERMAN JP SMITH

The City of Cape Town has requested the South African Police Service (SAPS) to establish a priority committee on protest action amidst an alarming spike in protest action in the city in recent months.

During a meeting with SAPS and members of the provincial cabinet last week, SAPS indicated that there had been 145 protest actions in the first four and a half months of this year compared to 84 during the same period in 2017. This represents a 73% increase in protest incidents that have grown progressively more violent.

The City’s own statistics corroborate the trend. To discourage people from settling on land that is not suitable for human habitation, the Anti-land Invasion Unit removes, on average, 15 000 illegal structures and/or pegs per annum. However, in the first four months of 2018, that figure is standing at over 26 000.

The City will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to attempted land grabs across the metro.

Invaded land often jeopardises emergency and basic service delivery and a variety of future projects to improve the living conditions of residents.

Mostly, residents who invade land are the ones who ultimately have to deal with extreme flood, fire, health and safety risks when settling illegally on land that has not been earmarked for human settlement.

Vulnerable people are also often asked to pay for ‘plots’ by unscrupulous individuals. These ‘plots’ are in most cases unsuitable for any sort of settlement. Land grabs are also often followed by demands for the installation of underground and other services which could impede the planned upgrade of informal settlements in other areas.

Over the next few years to 2020/21 the City has earmarked more than R850 million for various informal settlement upgrade and incremental development programmes, excluding the additional funding allocated to formal housing projects.

Private owners of open tracts of land must take all reasonable steps to protect their property from being invaded. They must ensure that interdicts are in place if required; that they follow legal procedures to get trespassing orders in place if need be; and take all necessary safeguard measures, such as hiring private protection firms to guard their land 24/7.

Please call the Public Emergency Communication Centre on 107 from a landline or on 021 480 7700 from a cell phone to provide anonymous information about land invasions or for further information. The City will continue to remove unoccupied, illegally erected structures and plot demarcation pegs as far as is humanly possible.

SAPS has identified 34 conflict areas. Just in the last week, we have had protests in Vrygrond, Parkwood, Bo-Kaap, Ocean View, Gugulethu, Macassar, Khayelitsha, Robert Sobukwe Road and 35th Avenue, Milnerton, Dunoon and Mitchells Plain.

Between SAPS and the City, we have deployed hundreds of resources to quell these violent protests, at the expense of other communities who are robbed of a policing presence. While we have yet to quantify the damage, it is safe to say that it runs into tens of millions of rand.

We are pleased to learn that 115 suspects arrested during the wave of protests have been charged in terms of Section 18 of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act of 2015. The act makes provision for a person convicted of tampering with or damaging essential infrastructure to be imprisoned for a period not exceeding 30 years. SAPS has indicated that they are opposing bail – a position that the City strongly supports.

We will continue to support SAPS in terms of public order policing. The City is dispatching as many resources as it is able in order to deal with the violent nature of the protest action. We are also making available additional budget in the next three financial years to employ more Metro Police and Law Enforcement staff and we are also investigating what kind of technological contribution we are able to make to further enhance enforcement efforts.

The City understands that there are communities with legitimate service delivery concerns and we continue to work very hard to deliver services within the limitations of our local government mandate and associated budget. It is however becoming more and more apparent that many of these legitimate issues are being hijacked by others with criminal and political intent. We also cannot allow attempts of manipulation to force the hand of government.

We respect the right of communities to protest. Legal protests are approved by the City daily in response to applications in terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act. However, the destruction of public property and infrastructure and placing the lives of others at risk can never be justified and can never be defended. The looting of businesses during protests amounts to nothing more than simple criminality. Some residents have lost their jobs due to illegal and violent protests. The destruction of public infrastructure makes no sense as the budget required to repair and replace destroyed public assets simply delays service delivery and removes budget that could have been used to enhance the lives of our residents.

As a society we must loudly reject such violence and I believe fair-minded and reasonable people do reject it and are angered by the needless destruction they witness including the disruption to their lives and the schooling of our youth.

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