24 April 2019

South Africa: Strand Protesters Threaten to Disrupt Elections

Occupiers of land in Strand have threatened to disrupt voting on 8 May if they are not allowed to erect their shacks on the land.

On Tuesday about 50 protesters marched to the municipal offices in the Strand to deliver a memorandum of demands to the City of Cape Town and to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Their protest followed a picket last week by property owners at the municipal building. The property owners were demanding an explanation from the City about an apparent agreement reached between the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) and the City on providing services to people occupying SANRAL-owned land near their properties.

The property owners claimed that their house prices will drop if informal structures are built close to their homes.

"We are here to demand the same treatment when the property owners marched here last week," said the leader of Tuesday's protest, Mkhululi Silatsha. "We were called land grabbers and there were racist remarks made and we want to ask the municipality why they allowed that to happen."

"We also want our building material back because the land we have occupied belongs to SANRAL. The City of Cape Town has no say over that land, but law enforcement officers were present and protected the Red Ants when they were demolishing our structures. We are here to ask for our land back."

Ward councillor and sub-council member Carl Punt tried to accept the memorandum on behalf of the chair of the sub-council but was asked to go back to the office as he was not a chairperson. "I am representing the sub-council chair who is not present due to other commitments," Punt told GroundUp.

Silatsha said deputy mayor Ian Neilson and two members of the mayoral committee, JP SMith and Malusi Booi, had come to the property owners' picket. "We are not prioritised because we are black. Three officials came running last week but not a single one came to listen to us."

Thanduxolo Luvalo said the protesters were tired of having their houses destroyed. "We borrowed money to buy the material that gets taken away by Red Ants. We will not watch while our money is being wasted like this. "

The memorandum was also directed to the IEC with the land occupiers threatening to disrupt voting in Nomzamo and Lwandle. "The IEC must mobilise officials to come and address us because there will no voting if people do not get the land," vowed Silatsha. "We cannot allow things to carry on as normal when we have people sleeping in halls and they have no houses because they were destroyed."

IEC regional coordinator Jeffry Mamputa accepted the memorandum directed to the IEC. "Fighting the IEC is like fighting the referee when the problem is the coach," said Mamputa. "I accept the memorandum and will deliver it to the right person as I do not take decisions at the IEC."

The Electoral Commission was given 48 hours to respond to the demands.

A request for comment from the City had not been answered by the time of publication. Comment will be added when it is received.

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