Cape Town mayor wants change to Disaster Management Act after housing complex 'illegally occupied'

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Cape Town mayor Dan Plato. Photo: Gallo Images
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato. Photo: Gallo Images
  • Cape Town mayor wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to change the Disaster Management Act regulation preventing evictions, after alleged illegal occupations at a Cape housing complex.
  • Social housing non-profit organisation, Communicare, alleged that its staff, security guards and tenants battled an alleged illegal occupation over the past weekend.  
  • The police say they are investigating complaints of trespassing.   

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to change the Disaster Management Act regulation preventing evictions, after the alleged illegal occupation of housing units in a complex managed by social housing organisation Communicare.

"Disaster regulations currently limit the ability of courts to grant eviction orders. This will add to Communicare's challenge of dealing with the injustice of this building hijacking," said Plato. 

"I have called on President Ramaphosa to urgently change the regulations for the sake of the rule of law, the greater good of our communities, and development goals of our cities.

"Illegal occupations cannot be equated with activism, and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. All role players must actively discourage attempts to illegally occupy land.

"We owe this not only to ourselves as residents of a growing city, but also to future generations who will require land for schools, hospitals, housing, transport infrastructure and community facilities."

Communicare alleges that its staff, security guards and tenants battled to prevent lawful tenants from being assaulted and to secure their property from alleged illegal occupation on Friday.

Megan Lennert, Communicare's stakeholder relations officer, said security guards were attacked with bottles, bins were burnt, doors to tenants' apartments were broken and cars were damaged by people trying to occupy vacant units. 

The social housing company said that since 2 March, there had been attempts to illegally occupy its units at Goedehoop Rental Complex in Brooklyn, and the police did not take action to protect property or "recognised tenants".

ALSO READ | Fed-up Communicare tenants head to High Court

"[The police's] failure to act has now resulted in escalating violence and 24 apartments in the complex are being occupied by the trespassers. Several violent scuffles broke out between a group of about 40 people led by two tenants from another of Communicare's properties."

She said the police's advice was to apply for an order under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction (PIE) Act.  Some of the alleged illegal occupants welded the security gates to the units closed, with themselves inside. Some units which were already occupied, were allegedly occupied while the tenants were away.

A march to Communicare head office and provincial legislature on Wednesday over social housing, evictions and land. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

"Members of the crowd threatened some tenants and said they would return to burn down the units and set tenants alight," said Lennert. 

Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk told News24 that Maitland police received a complaint at Goedehoop Flats, Justin Street, Brooklyn. 

Police spoke to the security guards and people on the premises.

"Cases of trespassing (security company) and malicious damage to property (complainant in flats) were registered for investigation," said Van Wyk, adding that there were no arrests.  

Van Wyk did not answer questions relating to the allegation that police had failed to prevent the alleged occupations from happening. 

Plato compared developments at the Communicare property to the occupation of the City-owned Woodstock Hospital, and the occupation of the Helen Bowden nurses' home property, owned by the Western Cape government, after announcements that they would be used for social housing. 

Communicare CEO Anthea Houston, said the organisation's first priority was to its tenants and the elderly.  

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