'Land occupation' eviction processes to come under spotlight in Vrygrond case

2019-06-25 05:14

A court challenge in an ongoing demolish-and-rebuild stand-off between the City of Cape Town and residents in Vrygrond, near Muizenberg, may bring some clarity about eviction processes relating to the illegal occupation of land.

The application, brought by some Vrygrond residents who previously protested over their plight, was supposed to heard in the Western Cape High Court on Friday, but was postponed for oral evidence.

"We don't have the court date yet, but we expect it to be in this week still," Mike Kumalo, chairperson of the Vrygrond Community Forum, said on Monday.

The applicants want clarity on whether the residents occupied the structures before June 18 when they were demolished; whether the City unlawfully evicted people when it demolished shacks on this date and whether it took away people's belongings while doing so.

The applicants are the Vrygrond Community Forum, Nozingisa Mposi, Kunjulwa Menze, Ntombizanele Lindani, Mcebiseni Mpola, Siphamandla Blayi, Mncekeleli Qaweshe and Nothemba Mongo. The respondents are the City, the municipal manager and Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato. 

"Since some time last year, the City has been demolishing some homes [and] leaving some," Kumalo told News24 on Friday. "We have been asking: 'Why is the City inconsistent and what authority do they use to demolish people's dwellings?'"

Shacks have been built on land between a landfill site and Vrygrond, named Xakabantu. 

Land earmarked for construction, then later nature reserve

Kumalo explained that this particular piece of land was originally earmarked for a housing development and residents were asked to leave to facilitate construction.

However, they had not seen any construction.

They moved back onto the land but then discovered it had been reclassified as part of a nature reserve, further complicating the issue.

Khumalo claimed there was no public participation that included the residents themselves. In addition, the issue of creating a buffer zone between Xakabantu and the landfill site and the nature reserve had also arisen.

In May 2018, the City obtained an interim interdict preventing the further building of houses and the demolition of any new houses.

Kumalo said it was nailed to a tree and that some people living there were later "given a number" by the City allowing them to stay, but not all were given a number.

This process in itself is causing friction between people who received a number and those who did not. There were also allegations of "number buying".

Kumalo said the matter must be resolved once and for all because, as recently as June 18, more homes were demolished.

Electioneering

He added that residents felt that officials seemed to accept Xakabantu as a suburb when they went there for electioneering, but not at other times.

"During elections, law enforcement officials took pictures. People came to campaign. They said 'Let people live there, let people stay;' and then one day they decide: 'Let's go and break everything down.'" 

READ: Vrygrond residents to restart land occupation 

Residents want to know whether the City is following due process in the demolition of shacks.

On Friday, Judge Ashley Binns-Ward decided that the case should include oral evidence from witnesses. The case was postponed for an urgent date for the hearing from Judge President John Hlophe.

The Xakabantu issue comes weeks after the legality of a massive house-bulldozing operation in Johannesburg's Alexandra was questioned

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