GroundUp (Cape Town)

23 July 2014

South Africa: Sanral Says City of Cape Town Was Involved in the Eviction of Displaced Nomzamo Residents

Photo: Adam Armstrong/GroundUp
The aftermath of shack demolitions in Lwandle (file photo).

Nomzamo informal settlement residents would have been relocated to new land years ago had the City of Cape Town not withdrawn from negotiations in 2011, attorneys for the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) told the Lwandle Inquiry yesterday.

"On the morning of 30 August SANRAL was still under the impression they would be providing the additional land as a contribution to the City. This after the City started cooperating with SANRAL to relocate the people to Macassar. Later that evening, we received a letter to say the City couldn't go ahead with negotiations until the intergovernmental dispute over road tolling was resolved," SANRAL's property service provider attorney, Shaun Hornby told the ministerial inquiry.

Chaired by advocate, Denzil Potgieter, the inquiry was appointed by Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu after hundreds of shacks were demolished on land owned by SANRAL last month.

The public hearings for the inquiry, which started last week, are being held at the GoodHope Sub-council Building.

Members of the inquiry will later today visit community members in the Nomzamo Community Hall to collect several statements.

This is to prepare for the second round of the public hearings which will be held at a venue closer to Strand where residents will give their submissions to the inquiry.

During yesterday's proceedings, submissions were heard from Hornby along with Fiona Bester, the attorney representing SANRAL and Strand sheriff Deon Burger.

The hearings are expected to be completed by 5 August.

More than 200 new informal homes have since been erected on the land with more under construction to accommodate all the families still being housed in the Nomzamo community hall.

Yesterday, Hornby described the history of SANRAL's negotiations with the municipality and private land owners since 2000, in a bid to relocate communities that had settled on their land in the Strand area.

Attorney Fiona Bester said the interdict was granted following a large scale invasion on their land on 19 January.

"We went to the High Court for the interdict dated 24 January, after it became apparent that we couldn't prevent an invasion on a large scale like that without it. The rule nisi to remove the people was extended three times by different judges between 3 February and 2 June. This was granted with the consent of the community's legal representative from Xulu Incorporated. Unfortunately they withdrew from the matter in June," she said.

Bester said the City had alerted them of the invasions and the complaints sent by residents living in neighbouring Strand Ridge to premier Helen Zille's office.

"The number of structures on the land was increasing over night. We received quite a few emails from the City advising us to ensure that SANRAL protect their land from invasions. They also said residents from a neighboring property complained in a letter to the premier about the issue. We got a letter from the City on 21 January informing us that a further 400 sites were pegged for structures," she said.

She added that 100 security guards that had been employed to patrol the property during the day and night and local police could not stop people from settling on the SANRAL property.

"The people became violent. They even torched the security's structure." She said that a 200m long fence was being built until they were instructed to stop the process on 4 June (after the evictions at the beginning of June).

Bester said the contractors who were paid per structure gave them the number of 233 shacks demolished in June.

Potgieter said SANRAL's decision to remove residents in winter was unnecessary.

"We visited the land and it is difficult for us to see where the rerouting road will be developed. There was no reason for SANRAL to throw them out on the streets. It seems totally unnecessary," he said.

In response, Bester said the situation had become "out of control" without the cooperation from the City.

"If we left it any longer, it could've been much worse if the removal was done at a later stage," she said.

Bester said SANRAL conducted their own investigation into the 448 names given to them by the community's legal representative. It found that 11 of those names were duplicated, 43 people were employed with a few of them listed as directors of companies and other were registered home owners.

However, when questioned on their findings, Bester said they had difficulty verifying the information and couldn't state it as fact.

Earlier, Deon Burger, the Strand sheriff who executed the court order, said several meetings were held with key role players to prepare for both evictions.

"In those meetings was the head of police, Lwandle police, public order policing, metro police, traffic services, the City's anti-land invasion and the SANRAL attorney. The dates for both of the evictions were decided based on the availability of police," he said.

When asked if he had notified residents of the court order, Burger said that an announcement was made in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa and eight notice boards were erected for the first eviction of 3 February. He said however that he was not required to give notice for the eviction that took place on 2 and 3 June because it was the same piece of land for the same community as the February eviction.

Burger said that he and the officials were concerned about the weather and the safety of the community.

"We had a seven day weather forecast and according to that it wasn't going to rain. Eskom officials also came to see me to ask when we would be removing the people because the structures were right under one of the main power lines," he said.

Burger told the inquiry that while the document was titled as a "court order" he understood it to be more of an "on-going" interdict.

"I was instructed three times by our attorney to go back and remove the people. It was the first time I took on a task of this magnitude and at the time, my main priority was to execute the interdict to the best of my ability. I didn't foresee that it would have such a big impact," he said.

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