Zwelihle land protest: It's got nothing to do with party politics, say community leaders

Some of the people accused of violent protests, with Zwelihle community leaders. (Jenni Evans, News24)
Some of the people accused of violent protests, with Zwelihle community leaders. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Community leaders in Zwelihle, on the outskirts of Hermanus, have made it clear that party affiliation had nothing to do with the land grabs that took place in the town last month.

They were referring to recent comments on social media in which the Economic Freedom Fighters were blamed for the apparent land grabs, particularly after the party's successful motion in Parliament that paved the way for an amendment of the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation.

'I just need a piece of land'

"I don't have a job. I am living with my parents, so I cannot afford to pay rent," one man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told News24.

"I just need a piece of land, with the water and the electricity laid. I will do the rest," he said.

He spoke after a judgment was delivered in the Hermanus Magistrate's Court on Friday in an application by 11 of the 67 people arrested in connection with violent protests in Zwelihle.

Seven of the 11 accused were released on bail of R300 each and the remaining four were released on a warning.

The outcome of the bail application was welcomed by community leader Sicelo Gxamesi.

No need to worry over another strike

"We were so happy when the court granted us bail and it is an affordable bail - it is only R300," said Gxamesi.

He has been working behind the scenes to liaise with court officials and the families of the accused throughout the week to help the accused arrange their pre-bail documentation.

Gxamesi assured the residents of Hermanus that there was no need to worry about another protest or strike.

"They are well secured, there is nothing that will happen," he said, before adding that all they wanted was for those arrested to be released.

Meanwhile, DA MPL Masizole Mnqasela approached Hermanus police to have charges of public violence and illegal occupation of land laid against ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore.

Mnqasela said this was after he said he saw a message exchanged between Dugmore and ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs, during a community meeting in Zwelihle addressed by Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela on March 27.

Mnqasela said the text allegedly called for well-located land to be "identified and occupied".

"This is so destructive," Mnqasela told News24.

He said the municipality worked for everybody and that the law and legal processes had to be followed.

'You can't give land like you are giving sweets'

"You can't give land like you are giving sweets. There are processes," said Mnqasela who is the Overstrand constituency head for the DA.

Dugmore, however, countered that the claim was a lie and said he would seek legal advice for defamation of his character.

In a statement, he said he went to Hermanus at the request of the ANC to help resolve the situation.

"The ANC has a very clear policy against land invasions, as communicated by our president, Cyril Ramaphosa. My role is a matter of public record," he said.

"My WhatsApp [message] to the provincial secretary of the ANC was [about] sharing my public Facebook post about the situation in Hermanus and suggesting a campaign to ensure the completion of land audits in all municipalities, making such land audits public, setting up local and district land committees and fast-tracking the release of identified land for human settlements, local economic development, agriculture as well as education and recreation.

"This campaign will be conducted in terms of our national constitution and the laws of our country.

'A smear campaign'

"The DA's smear campaign against the ANC and myself will not work. It will not work because it is a lie," he added.

On March 22, a group of people from Zwelihle, on the outskirts of the popular whale watching town of Hermanus, set about marking plots for themselves on three vacant stands near the area where they lived.

One was near a clinic in Zwelihle, another near a waste dump in Mbeki Road, and a third near Schulphoek Road.

They went to the Overstrand Municipality and told officials that they would build their own houses and that the municipality should supply water and sewerage lines as well as electricity networks at the municipality's cost.

The municipality refused and had the people removed from the vacant stands.

Protests followed almost immediately, and the police stepped in, using teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

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