Category Archives: anti-land invasion unit

The Daily Maverick: Evictions: South Africa’s bitter, year-round trauma

Evictions: South Africa’s bitter, year-round trauma

Stuart Wilson

Every year, when the temperature dips toward zero, there is a stream of stories in the national media about evictions. The stories emphasise the brutality of evictions – and what Colin Bundy, many years ago, described as the “trauma, frustration, grief, dull dragging apathy and surrender of the will to live” that follow them. And the winter weather helps us imagine the depth of that trauma, and the experience of sleeping on the streets in the frigid night air. But the reality is that evictions and their associated traumas are a year-round feature of South African society.

It isn’t supposed to be this way. Our “never again” Constitution, as the Chief Justice has called it, requires that evictions take place only with the permission of the court – and only where the court has decided that it would be fair, just and equitable to do so, all things considered. An eviction is only fair, in the eyes of our courts, if an evicted person has somewhere else to go – some shelter either provided through their own efforts, or through state support.

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By the time you read this, our homes may have already been demolished

Update: The Anti-Land Invasion Unit and Law Enforcement of the City of Cape Town arrived once again this morning the 17th of May. They destroyed our homes again. As usual, no court order, no checking to see if the homes are occupied and lived in, no mercy. Actions were clearly illegal, immoral and just plain cruel. There have been three arrests. Residents also say that they saw one of the community members being tortured in one of the police Nyalas. Siphiwo – 0836842828, Nosibusiso – 0736128044, Masibu – 0603147788



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M&G: ‘Shock and awe tactics’ used on shack dwellers

‘Shock and awe tactics’ used on shack dwellers

by Jared Sacks

On April 27, while political parties were spending fortunes to celebrate freedom, the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo commemorated – or “mourned” – what it called UnFreedom Day in Sweet Home, the shack settlement in Philippi on the Cape Flats.

On the same day, a group of shack dwellers from the Philippi East area increased their occupation of a piece of land just off Symphony Way, between Stock and Govan Mbeki roads. But a day later, the City of Cape Town decided to show them exactly how unfree they still are.

This settlement, according to community leader Sandile Ngoxolo, was named the “Marikana land occupation” in honour of the workers who died last year in North West province in their struggle for a living wage – and because “we too are organising ourselves peacefully and are willing to die for our struggle”. Homes were built and occupied, and families worked through the night of Freedom Day to put the finishing touches to them.

On Sunday April 28 the Democratic Alliance, which runs Cape Town and which is trying to showcase an anti-apartheid past with the “Know Your DA” campaign, showed that its approach to land issues is not so different from that of the old apartheid National Party. At 1.15pm a large contingent of the city’s anti-land invasion unit (ALI) and dozens of day labourers arrived. They were backed up by law enforcement units and police vehicles, including, for extra effect, a Casspir and a Nyala.

These forces evicted residents from their homes, often beating them in the process. They pepper-sprayed Abahlali activist Cindy Ketani and then stole her phone, shot another woman twice with rubber bullets and arrested Abahlali baseMjondolo activist Tumi Ramahlele and community member Kemelo Mosaku.

Ramahlele claims to have been severely beaten by law enforcement members inside the Casspir after being arrested and is preparing to lay a charge with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate after being examined by a doctor.

For its part, the ALI then took apart the Marikana homes, often destroying people’s property in the process.

This was repeated on Tuesday April 30 and once again on Wednesday May 1, only with a much larger police contingent present, which took down yet more homes. Two more residents were arrested.

The May Day eviction finished the job begun on Freedom Day, destroying every last home. Moreover, most of the zinc sheets residents had used to build their homes were confiscated by the ALI.

On Friday May 3 I got a phone call from a newly homeless resident, Zanele: “Law enforcement is back again. They are not only taking our zinc sheets, but now they are even taking our sails [plastic tarpaulins]. We do not know what to do. It’s raining and we have nowhere else to go.”

I later found out that not only was removing people’s belongings illegal (especially if the city doesn’t allow residents to claim it back) but also it is against the ALI’s official guidelines. I also found out that not only were these evictions illegal but also that the city was citing a non­existent Act to justify them.

City of Cape Town media manager Kylie Hatton claimed in a statement that the evictions were done in accordance with the “Protection of the Possession of Property Act” as an act of “counter-spoliation”. But Sheldon Magardie, director of the Cape Town office of the Legal Resources Centre, said there is no such law. Advocate Stuart Wilson, director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, and constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos concurred.

The overarching law that regulates evictions is section 26(3) of the Constitution, which states: “No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.”

Unfinished and unoccupied
The Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act of 1998 (the PIE Act) expands on that, as well as on “spoliation”, and details the procedures a municipality must follow in order to conduct a legal eviction.

According to Wilson, in common law “counter-spoliation … permits a person who is in the process of having property taken from them to immediately take that property back without a court order”.

But, as Wilson, Magardie and others explain, counter-spoliation does not apply to the eviction of people from their homes. Once they are deemed squatters, or even illegal land grabbers, as per the 2004 case of Rudolf vs City of Cape Town, the PIE Act must apply.

To justify the eviction in terms of counter-spoliation, the city claims the structures were not homes but were unfinished and unoccupied. This is a blatant lie. I saw the homes, and there are photographs and videos showing clearly that the homes were fully occupied and were being lived and slept in from as early as April 25.

On Friday May 3, for the fifth time that week, I set off for the “Marikana” occupation. When I arrived people were cold, wet, tired and depressed. “How could they take the only things we have that would keep us dry?” they wondered.

What could be the city’s justification for confiscating the tarpaulins? Did they want people to get wet and sick? Is it punishment for daring to build shacks in the first place?

I can understand the city’s perverted rationale for illegally evicting poor people from empty land. I can understand the economic logic behind the city leaving such land vacant until its value increases, and I can understand the city’s perversion of the PIE Act to place the interests of the rich and well connected over the welfare of the poor.

But, visiting Sweet Home on that cold day, I could not understand the reason why the ALI would be so malicious as to steal an item vital to the struggle to keep dry on such a miserable, rainy day.

Well-thought-out strategy
Then I remembered Naomi Klein’s discussion of the role of torture in her book, The Shock Doctrine. Torture is a notoriously unreliable way to extract information but, as Klein points out, that is not its primary motive. Rather, it is to put the victims in a position of such disarray that they could not resist power.

In the case of these occupiers, shocking them with aggressive displays of power, removing their belongings and making them as uncomfortable as possible in the rain was equivalent to the “shock and awe” tactics of the American invasion of Iraq. As Harlan K Ullman and James P Wade define it in their history of the war, Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, the aim was “to seize control of the environment and paralyse or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and understanding of events that the enemy would be incapable of resistance at the tactical and strategic levels”.

Is this why the ALI flouted its own guidelines? Was it mere meanness, or a well-thought-out strategy aimed at breaking the will of the community?

Whatever the case, these actions show that the DA’s liberal ideal of small, “efficient” government is a farce, because it requires an extensive, violent, often illicit system of authority to contain the basic demands of the poor – as well as their larger, emancipatory aspirations. The ANC, too, in a city such as Durban, talks about the “rule of law” while responding to the organised poor with astonishing violence.

This violence is physical, social and spatial. Geographer David McDonald writes in World City Syndrome: Neoliberalism and Inequality in Cape Town (2008) that it is now “arguably the most uneven and spatially segregated city in the country”.

Abahlali baseMjondolo mourns on UnFreedom Day because, for the poor, the only thing liberalism has given them the right to vote for their oppressors.

If we are to have any chance of resolving the escalating crisis in our society, we are going to have to think beyond liberalism. To start, we need to talk about redistribution and put the social value of urban land above its commercial value.

West Cape News: Pre-school closes as City demolishes Langa community hall

Pre-school closes as City demolishes Langa community hall

by Nombulelo Damba

The demolition of a community hall in the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa by the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit on Tuesday has resulted in the destruction of a pre-school and left the community confused and divided.

On Tuesday morning five Anti-Land Invasion Unit vans arrived in Joe Slovo and proceeded to demolish a community hall made out of zinc that had been standing for about ten years and was used by the community for a pre-school, public meetings, church gatherings and emergency shelter in the wake of shack fires.

Although the Chris Hani pre-school is the only one serving Joe Slovo residents and housed about 200 children, the unit members told residents the hall was built on land identified as a road reserve.

However, shacks built around, and on the same line as the hall, remained untouched.

The incident has left residents speculating that community leaders who are refuses to step down despite the wishes of residents, were behind the demolition as they claim they were responsible for the erection of the hall and thus have the power to take it down.

Mzwanele Zulu, who has been a community leader since 2006, said the hall needed to make way for a housing project that was to deliver 2055 housing units.

Zulu said an agreement with the owner of the pre-school that a new school would be built and parents were told not to send their children to school on Tuesday.

The new pre-school has yet to be built by Zulu said parents who had no other option could send their children to the teacher’s house in the meantime.

He said some other community leaders disagreed with him over the management of the hall but he was the one who organised for an NGO called Khaya Lam to sponsor the building of it.

But residents said Zulu is only trying to prove a point that he is the leader of the Joe Slovo community, despite the fact that he no longer lives in the informal settlement since he received state subsidised housing in the N2 Gateway housing project upon whose steering committee he serves.

Newly selected Joe Slovo community leader Sydwell Mavume said Zulu used his influence to call in the Anti-Land Invasion Unit.

He said the community was never informed about the hall being destroyed and were surprised to see law enforcement in their area.

“We do not have a problem with them removing the hall but they should have found us another place to build a hall first before removing it,” said Mavume.

“We use this hall for emergencies, when we have fire or too much rain. We have people who use this hall as a church and for our public meetings. Those leaders who brought in the City Anti Land Invasion Unit are no longer staying here, they received RDP houses long time ago but they do not want to step down because they benefiting from the project.”

West Cape News: Marikana shacks were ‘unoccupied’ claims City

Marikana shacks were ‘unoccupied’ claims City

Nombulelo Damba

The up to 125 shacks the Anti-Land Invasion Unit has repeatedly demolished in the Marikana informal settlement in Philippi East were unoccupied, says the City.

However, a number of Marikana residents, who have been trying to set up home on the city-owned land piece of land on Symphony Way for the last two weeks, say their shacks were demolished while they were still inside them.

Following the Anti-Land Invasion Unit having returned four times since April 25 – the last time being on Thursday last week – the homeless families are setting up makeshift shelters of plastic and cardboard at night and taking them down during the day.

Responding to questions submitted last week, Mayco member for Human Settlements, Thandeka Gqada said residents build shacks illegally on city-owned land then leave them unoccupied and carrying on living in their original dwellings.

But Xolani Mswabi said he was one of the Marikana settlers whose shack was demolished on May 1 – the third time the city had cleared the shacks after residents rebuilt them – while he was still inside it.

Mswabi said all his belongings were inside the shack when the ALIU pulled it down.

“My shack was destroyed more than two times and the last time on May 2. They took the material that was left to cover myself. No one was given notice and we’ve been telling City of Cape Town that we have no other place to live,” he said.

Mswabi came close to being arrested on May 1, along with Mzwamadoda Fingo, when he grappled with law enforcement officials in a bid to demolish his shack himself rather than let the ALIU officers do it.

“With anger I pushed them because the material was going to fall on top of my cardboard, one of the officials pushed me. They grabbed me, pressing me down but some police officers intervened and they left me,” said Mswabi.

Zoe Zulu, 36, a mother of two children, said her shack was also destroyed while she was inside, feeding her five year old daughter on May 1.

Zulu has since been given shelter at the St John’s church while searching for another place to live.

“I don’t understand why the city said we were not living in our shacks because I begged them not to destroy my shack.”

She said as her shack was pulled down her one-month-old son, who was strapped to her back was struck by a falling piece of building material.

“I only noticed later, because he struggled to sleep. Some of the people told me that he was hit,” said Zulu.

The informal settlement, which residents dubbed Marikana as they said like the platinum workers, they were prepared to die for their rights, was first occupied by about six shacks two months ago.

Late in April, the number of shacks increased drastically and the homeless rights organization Abahlali baseMjondolo took up the Marikana cause.

Marikana residents are predominantly former backyard residents who say they can no longer afford to pay the R500 per month rent their landlords demand.

Abahlali baseMjondolo representative Cindy Ketani said the City’s claim that the shacks were unoccupied was “totally rubbish”.

“People were thrown out of their shacks by the City Anti-Land Invasion Unit and pictures were taken of that, so I do not understand why they’re denying it because it’s very clear.”

She said the City was trying to ensure they were not prosecuted for conducting illegal evictions as they were supposed to provide the residents an alternative place to live.

Gqada confirmed that 125 structures were demolished on May 1 and 11 on May 2.

She claimed all the structures were unoccupied and thus the city had no legal obligation to obtain an eviction order.

Asked if the residents were warned of impending demolition, she said they were “verbally warned”.

She said the City did engage with the residents who said they had been living in backyards.

“The claim is that the people are living in backyards, and it is presumed that they will return there.”