#LandGrab debate: 'It is an emotional issue' across SA

More and more impatient South Africans are opting to occupy open spaces instead of waiting for Parliament to resolve the land question. 

That is the view of Lizette Lancaster from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), who says the NGO has been picking up land invasion issues on their public violence monitors since 2013.

She said the trend from 2013 to 2018 showed that at least 70 protests related to land invasion had turned violent.

OPINION: Hunger for urban land and township development central to expropriation debate

"People are incredibly desperate to get a permanent place to stay and it comes with a history of requiring land."

She said this desperation is used by political leaders to illustrate issues. 

"It is an emotional issue often taken up by local leaders to advance themselves, but also to make sure that services are delivered. A lot of people have not been benefitting from any land reform or housing processes."

On Monday, the coastal town of Hermanus in the Western Cape came to a standstill, following a tense standoff with groups of protesters and police, after they tried to invade land. 

READ: Hermanus backyarders to get land, MEC announces

It turned violent, with marchers setting a recycling plant and a police station alight, stoning cars and demolishing buildings. Police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. 

Since the start of the year, more than 10 areas across the country have been invaded. Many were led by illegal land invaders, dressed in EFF regalia.  



Earlier this month, areas north of Johannesburg, including Olievenhoutbosch, Blue Hills and Waterfall were invaded.

Other areas targeted in Gauteng included Marlboro, Alexandra, the Golden Highway near Eldorado Park, Weilers Farm, Orange Farm Extension 10 and East Lynne. 

On Wednesday, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is expected to hear an application by attorney Zehir Omar, who is representing residents from Olievenhoutbosch after trespassing cases were opened at the local police station.

WATCH: 'We are not going anywhere, Olievenhoutbosch is our home' - illegal land occupiers

The Western Cape has also experienced invasions in Dunoon and Gugulethu. 

According to Lancaster, violence erupts when police or private security start demolishing shacks. 

She said, in order to resolve illegal land invasions, services needed to be delivered to the poorest of poor. 

"It is about making sure that land and houses go where they are needed and that these things are dealt with in a transparent manner.

"There have been a lot of allegations of corruption and a basic inefficiency to deal with the backlog."  

The DA in Gauteng blames the EFF for land invasions 

Parliament is due to debate the issue of expropriation of land without compensation in August, after an amended EFF motion was passed to review section 25 of the Constitution.



Ahead of that debate, the leader of the Democratic Alliance in Gauteng, John Moodey said the Economic Freedom Fighters encouraged people to break the law in order to meet their own narrow political agenda.

"The EFF wants the state to own land, not the people. No one is above the law and these individuals and EFF representatives are encouraging South Africans to break the law and they must be brought to book for it."

Moodey said the red berets were receiving special treatment, which needed to come to an end.

"No one is above the law and these individuals and EFF representatives are encouraging South Africans to break the law and they must be brought to book for it," he said.

The DA provincial leader said the party remained concerned that invasions could become more prevalent and called for a strong Johannesburg Metro Police Department and SAPS presence.

READ: We can't wait for Parliament's go-ahead before expropriating land without compensation - Nkoana-Mashabane

Moodey said the DA believed in land redistribution and restitution.

"We do not support land invasion, nor do we support land expropriation without compensation because it will lead to the state owning all land and the people being only tenants on the land," said Moodey.

Attempts to reach EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi for comment were unsuccessful.

At the official launch of the ANC's 54th national elective congress resolutions on Monday, the party's head of policy Jeff Radebe said the land issue was "extremely urgent" and needed to be dealt with. 

"I just want to emphasise the urgency of this matter, so that there is certainty sooner rather than later to how this is going to be unfolding in South Africa."

Radebe said a special national executive committee meeting was scheduled for April 20 to 21 to discuss the issue. He also said there would also be land summit, that would allow the party to engage all South Africans on its policies around land.

He said President Cyril Ramaphosa made it "very clear" that those who occupy land illegally would be arrested. 

READ: Ramaphosa: Not revolutionary to tell people to occupy land

Radebe said the public also needed to be educated about the consequences during protests. 

"Government must impose heavy penalties on those who damage and destroy public property."

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