Call in police and crime intelligence on land occupations - Human Rights Commission

Nettalie Viljoen, People's Post
  • Human Rights Commission does not believe "wave of land occupations" are spontaneous.
  • Reverend Chris Nissen wants police's underground network to establish who's behind the land grabs.
  • He also announced the HRC's urgent court application on evictions was going ahead.

The SA Human Rights Commission has called for state authorities, including police crime intelligence experts, to uncover those behind the "wave of land-occupations" taking place in Cape Town.

This as multiple attacks reported against a range of government service providers - from firefighters to paramedics - and widespread land grabs.

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato announced this week: "Attempts to illegally occupy land, City projects or community facilities include several orchestrated attempts in Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Wallacedene, Delft (Blikkiesdorp), Dunoon, Firgrove (Macassar), Milnerton and Nyanga, among others."

Western Cape Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz on Tuesday damned ongoing violence as "politically-motivated" and announced urgent top-level meetings with police.

READ | Poor will suffer most from violent attacks on state services - Western Cape government

The SA Human Rights Commission's Reverend Chris Nissen has called on all relevant state authorities, including the police's crime intelligence service, to uncover who may be behind the current "wave of land invasions".

"I have seen this wave of invasions, and asked myself why the City of Cape Town is not preventing these invasions?

"The Human Rights Commission does not condone any illegal land grabs. There are communities sitting on waiting lists for 30 years or more. People must respect the law and not jump the queue.

"At the same time, we recognise the needs of homeless people - but it needs to be done in an orderly fashion," Nissen told News24.

On the land occupations, Nissen said the HRC's urgent interdict was due to be heard in the Western Cape Division of the High Court on Friday July 24, and sought three rulings:

  • First, that the City of Cape Town had to have a court order, in order to evict anyone.
  • Second, that court orders could only be executed post-lockdown.
  • And, third, that the City evicted in a "humane way", and "dismantled", not demolished structures.

Nissen denounced any suggestion that land invasions were in any way linked to the HRC's pending court case; and said he suspected other forces could be at work.

"Crime intelligence must investigate," Nissen urged, to put a stop to the current "wave of land invasions".

ALSO READ | Land reform: We need a new approach that does not reduce land to its commercial value

Equally, he said the legitimate needs of the homeless had to be tackled by the City of Cape Town.

In a statement on Tuesday, Plato said land under threat from invaders included "land for services, nature conservation land, play parks or City housing projects". 

"The City, together with law enforcement agencies, is doing its best to thwart the attempts, but it is mostly large-scale, well-planned, well-funded and orchestrated invasions. Actions to prevent the invasions or illegal occupations are also being met in some areas with extreme violence and destruction of property and the breaking down of community facilities," Plato said.

"There are instances where illegal occupiers are claiming they have been evicted by their landlords as they are unable to pay rent.

"It must be noted this is illegal. Landlords may not evict tenants for non-payment during the lockdown period," he warned.

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