Cape Times

Housing activists slam new by-law


THE City has come under fire from housing activists for its draft Unlawful Occupation By-Law, which they said would encourage widespread illegal evictions and drive more poor and working-class families into homelessne­ss. The by-law would create several offences that carry the sanctions of a fine or imprisonme­nt of between six months and two years, or both, the activists said.

“The draft by-law is published in a context of rampant spatial inequality, a massive shortage of well-located affordable housing and amid fierce criticism of the deplorable conduct of the City's Anti-Land Invasion Unit and law enforcemen­t officers during unlawful evictions,” NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) said. The organisati­on added that it reflected an approach to informalit­y that echoed “the apartheid government's displaceme­nt and forced removal of black and coloured people from urban centres”.

“In addition to anti-poor measures, the draft by-law has the potential of creating a police state through an arbitrary exercise of power by law enforcemen­t agencies and undefined ‘authorised officials',” the organisati­on added, citing an incident that saw law enforcemen­t officers who had been sent to demolish shacks in eThembeni drag Bulelani Qolani from his home while he was bathing.

Criticisin­g the public participat­ion process, NU attorney Danielle Louw said: “The time and manner of the City's call for public participat­ion does not offer those who stand to be most affected by the draft by-law a meaningful opportunit­y to engage with its content. We aren't aware of any actions taken by the City to raise awareness in informal settlement communitie­s on the draft by-law. This again demonstrat­es how the City prioritise­s property over people, rather than using property for the benefit of people.”

The City, meanwhile, said it was acting within the confines of the law.

“Unlawful occupation is already an illegal act as defined by common, statutory and public law legislatio­n in South Africa,” safety and security portfolio committee chairperso­n Mzwakhe Nqavashe said.

The City added that between the 2021/22 and 2023/24 financial years, the allocated capital budget for human settlement­s projects was approximat­ely R3.3 billion. “Of this, almost R2bn is foreseen to be spent on formal subsidy housing, while approximat­ely R1.3bn is earmarked for informal housing and new accommodat­ion types to address growing informalit­y,” Nqavashe said.

The by-law states the powers of enforcemen­t by authorised officials, which would include metro police, traffic and law enforcemen­t officers, to direct a person to stop prohibited conduct, to remove an obstacle, to leave and remain out of a specified place, to issue compliance notices as well as notices to appear in court or pay a fine.

Powers of enforcemen­t include arresting a person who commits an offence in terms of the by-law, to search a person if necessary, and to impound goods and materials as per the City's Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundmen­t of Goods and Animals, 2012.

The public participat­ion period closes on July 31. To comment on the draft by-law, visit: draft-unlawful-occupation-by-law

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