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: https://www.capetown.gov.za/City-Connect/Have-yoursay/Issues-open-for-public-comment/ draft-unlawful-occupation-by-law