Category Archives: Zille-Raine Heights

SACSIS: Helen Zille’s Hopeless Handling of Cape Gang Violence

Helen Zille’s Hopeless Handling of Cape Gang Violence

by Anna Majavu

With the DA beginning their campaign to wrest control of another few provinces from the ANC in the 2014 elections, the impoverished residents of Cape Town’s Lavender Hill and Hanover Park have become the latest convenient political footballs.

Like other so-called “Coloured” communities – Delft, Grassy Park, Ocean View and Bishop Lavis – Lavender Hill and Hanover Park remain derelict ghettoes, which appear to be stuck in a long forgotten era. A part-privatised leaky housing development built on top of a wetland there in the 1990s has caused more harm than good, with poor residents having to fork out thousands on bond payments and repairs for damage they didn’t cause. As Eleanor Hoedemaker, a social movement activist from the area says, there hasn’t been any real housing delivery in the area for the past “fifty years”.

Just days after she was elected Cape Town’s mayor in March 2006, Helen Zille was forced to meet with a few hundred backyard residents who had been set upon by the city’s metro police after occupying some land near Lavender Hill. Fearing that her inauguration would be marred, Zille herself arranged a piece of state land in the area for the residents to settle on until they received new government houses in nearby Pelican Park. The residents named that patch of land Zille Raine Heights, partly in Zille’s honour. But their promised houses were never built and a few years later, the city took out an eviction order against them – winning the right to forcefully remove them from the very land they had been instructed to live on while waiting for their new houses.

This is Helen Zille and the DA’s involvement in the communities surrounding Lavender Hill and Hanover Park. Apart from poverty, these communities have been under siege from gangs for decades now. The DA has never done anything to end the drug trade on the Cape Flats and it risks losing thousands of votes in the 2014 elections because of this.

Last week Zille called for the army to be sent into Lavender Hill and Hanover Park, claiming that because of the “meltdown” in the top ranks of the ANC controlled national SAPS, local police had lost their ability to investigate gangs and drug crimes.

But in Cape Town, drug lords have been paying police bribes to protect their business for decades – including during apartheid. This is common practice not only in other parts of Cape Town – to which Zille turns a blind eye – but across the world.

When a political leader calls for the most draconian crackdown on communities – a military occupation – normally unthinkable in a parliamentary democracy, this is more an admission of their own failure to govern than anything else.

The DA has been in power in Cape Town for an uninterrupted six years now, and in control of the province for more than three years. Zille’s mantra is that the DA governs better than the ANC, but this is far from true. The economic policies of both parties are virtual carbon copies of each other, with the DA only differing slightly in its promotion of accelerated privatisation and its desire to do away with any slight protections for workers.

On the ground, both the DA and ANC are equally inept at “governing” since both have failed to provide basic services, decent education and healthcare, jobs or housing for the citizens unfortunate enough to live under their rule.

Their approach to policing is equally similar. The ANC’s refusal to do anything to stamp out the collusion between police and drug lords despite the anguish of the frightened residents shows their disrespect for the poor. There are also questions about why the army was deployed last year at peaceful protests over job allocations outside the new Khayelitsha District Hospital if it is not appropriate to deploy it to stop gunfights between gangs.

And Zille’s call for the army to rush into Hanover Park and Lavender Hill begs a critique of policing by the DA. The DA has never had a problem policing Cape Town when it wants to crush resistance by the poor. Its city administration has a safety and security directorate with a number of specialised units under its control, including the anti-land invasion unit and the anti-copper theft unit.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason why the city’s safety and security directorate does not set up an anti-gang unit. The anti-land invasion unit has been particularly “active” in Gugulethu, Macassar, Mitchells Plain, Delft and Mandela Park, in tearing down hundreds of shacks over the years set up by frustrated back-yard residents.

The Cape Town metro police force itself is seemingly willing and able to engage in brutal gunfights. When they wanted to tear down shacks in another so-called “Coloured” ghetto – Hangberg near Hout Bay in 2010, the Cape Town metro police opened fire with hundreds of rubber bullets, shooting four people’s eyes out. It seems odd that there is nothing these police can do to fight gangsters in Lavender Hill and Hanover Park.

Community activist Nkwame Cedile, of the Right 2 Know campaign in Cape Town says, “What we are going through in townships is violence of inequality. Zille and the ANC ruling elite are in denial about the violent impact of inequalities. They treat the continued violence as just a community safety issue and I say it is more than that,” said Cedile.

Cape Flats based political activist and academic Shaheed Mahomed says it is in the DA’s interests not to end the drug trade in the city.

“In the 1960’s and 70’s the US state systematically saturated the ghettoes with drugs to break the resistance that had been led by the Black Panther movement. A drugged youth would not lead any resistance.”

Mahomed points to last week’s execution of Lavender Hill Anti-Eviction Campaign activist Soraya Nordien, who was shot at point blank range just a week after being threatened with a gun by Junky Funky gang members. Nordien had been a leader in mobilising the community to set up neighbourhood watches in the area. “The police did nothing about this. The police openly collaborate with gang members,” said Mahomed.

Report from the Court Hearing for the Zille-Raine Heights Eviction Case

First impressions and feedback from the legal trial for ZRH eviction case

Jessica Thorn

The appeal trial of the community of Zille Raine Heights v. the City of Cape Town case commenced at 10h00 and was concluded at 15h15. It was heard by a bench of three judges, including one woman who is a gender activist. The court was packed to the brim with community members. Outside throughout the day the children sang songs, danced and held placards and the banner of the settlement on the stairs of the High Court. We had good publicity, including interviews from E TV, the Cape Argus, the Cape Times, and Radio 786, who interviewed Gwendoline Botha and Layla Ryklief amongst others. The community also received strong support from organizations including the Anti-Eviction Campaign, UCT, UWC and Plaas. There were also a number of messages received in solidarity from ILRIG and other sources.

Advocate Nyman, who represented the community of Zille Raine Heights, presented a strong argument, and I felt confident that for the most part, she was speaking as the voice of the community. Essentially, she called for the eviction to be reviewed on the grounds that it was not just and equitable.

She explained, using the support of a judgment delivered by Sacks 2005 (Port Elizabeth v. Various Occupiers) that in the case of eviction cases, the court cannot rely solely on common law which attributes full value to the objective facts which are presented on paper, but also needs to engage in ‘judicial activism’, and if need be investigate further on the conditions and permanent housing possibilities in Happy Valley, while taking into account the broader constitutional basis which the judgment of the case would affect.

Her central arguments submitted to the court were on the grounds of whether the City indeed appropriately engaged with the community about the eviction, and what the meaning of meaningful engagement is. There was much deliberation around whether the City had concluded an agreement that a permanent solution for the community’s housing solution– both in the meeting with Mayor Helen Zille, as well as in a meeting with the City of Cape Town around the discussion of available and appropriate land in the Grassy Park area.

The living conditions in Happy Valley were challenged, and she explained that the Constitution confirms the progressive right to housing, which means that people should not be relocated to live in conditions worse than which they are currently faced. This argument also strongly brought across the importance of social networks, as well as the fact that Happy Valley is indeed not a permanent housing solution – but a temporary one. There is currently a shortfall in housing opportunities for the people in Happy Valley, and the City is not clear on when the people in Happy Valley will receive houses. She also addressed the meaning of home.

Essentially the City’s position that the invitation for the community to move to Happy Valley “free of charge” remains, and “this would be a base from which people would be able to live” until they receive housing through the process of the national database if they qualify for a housing subsidy. As expected, Joubert stated that people should not jump the housing waiting list queue, as this would lead to the City eventually stopping housing delivery, as this would perpetuate the cycle of people occupying land in order to jump the queue. According to Joubert, this has not happened yet and so the community still has the opportunity to live freely in Happy Valley.

The argument of Advocate Joubert, who represented the City of Cape Town, challenged Zille Raine Height’s presentation of new evidence to the court relating to Happy Valley. He argued that no agreement had been concluded regarding a permanent housing solution for ZRH in the Grassy Park area, and that the City had conducted a sufficient investigation of the available erfs in the area – concluding that no land was immediately available. Nyman replied on this point, emphasizing the word “immediate” and that the decision that no land was available was influenced by the need for the community to be relocated as a sports development was due to be constructed. Joubert held that the eviction to Happy Valley would be a reasonable solution for the community, by taking in account the available resources of the City, and that sufficient services are provided including sufficient transport lines, schools, etc. He also submitted that the City had engaged meaningfully with the community, but nonetheless it is not necessary in every instance for the City to engage in mediation with the community in an eviction case.

He disputed Advocate’s Nyman discussion of “the progressive right to housing” saying that this would mean that people could occupy land in Constantia, for example, and occupants would not be able to be relocated unless the relocation area would improve the living circumstances of where the people were living. He argued that this would result to people occupying land all over the City. Nyman responded that the circumstances of the specific case needed to be taken into account. I would add that the community was relocated to the assigned land by the City, and thus the conditions of where they currently are living were chosen by the City and not by the community – and so this hypothetical situation would not apply.

Community leaders feel positive about how ZRH had been represented in court, and now we wait for the judgment to be passed. Possible outcomes proposed by Nyman included mediation between the City and Zille Raine Heights, and for the facts around Happy Valley and permanence, for example, to be investigated further. Nevertheless, we wait to see what the judges will decide, and in the mean time the community will remain on the field. It was a good day of unity which supported many people’s fears, and showed the strength of the female leadership of Zille Raine Heights.

Help Zille-Raine Heights Fight Eviction


24 January 2010

On Friday the 29th of January, over 260 women, men, children and elderly will be represented in court for our appeal trial against forceful relocation from Zille Raine Heights informal settlement in Grassy Park to Happy Valley, 35 kms away from Cape Town.

Four years ago, we, the community of Zille Raine Heights, occupied land in Civic Road, Lotus River. Most people lived in overcrowded flats for most of their lives, some were backyarders, and others were facing evictions from their landlords. For approximately fifty years there has been no housing delivery in the LOGRA area (Lotus River, Grassy Park, Ottery and Retreat) and we decided we needed a solution to our housing problem. The following day after we occupied the open field, our places were demolished by the City without any court order.

Mayor Helen Zille arrived on the land that Sunday afternoon and said that the City of Cape Town would relocate us within 0-18 months to our permanent site, and that we would be part of the first pilot housing project in Pelican Park, Zeekoevlei. She said this twice, in front of the community and reporters and in a meeting with the committee members and the Homeless People’s Crisis Committee.

We lived for three weeks in the open and then the council moved us on their trucks to the field we are currently staying on. Seven months later, the City issued our eviction order. The legal trial took a year and a half, and the judgement was passed on the 13th of June 2008 without any of us being present. We found out about the judgment when a journalist came to interview a resident about a fire on the settlement. The judgement said we were to be evicted and had to move to Happy Valley.

We visited Happy Valley, and we saw the living conditions of the people. It is overcrowded, people have poor sanitation and electricity, and they must walk far for water. There is a dumping site off which people eat to survive. There is high unemployment, and there are few jobs in the area for the community. People told us they used to work before moving to Happy Valley, but since had lost their jobs because they were unable to pay for the cost of travelling far to get to work. We were told that even current mayor Dan Plato said “My dog’s kennel is better than the structures that people are living in, in Happy Valley.”

All we ask is not to be moved far away from our support systems. Most of us rely on family and friends who support us. We will be far from our churches, mosques, our workplaces, clinics and schools. We are willing to move from Zille Raine Heights, but we want permanency – not from TRA to TRA (temporary relocation area).

In March we would have been on this land for four years, and during this time we have not been adequately consulted by the Mayor, nor the Council. Not once has Helen Zille kept her promise to visit us again. Where is our councillor, Jan Burger, and why is he getting paid for doing nothing? We have read that so many ward councillors have helped their communities, why not ours? We should keep politicians accountable!

We live in the new South Africa with the right to housing, but the apartheid style of forced removal remains! We are not going to rest until justice is served!

Support us in our struggle to find permanent housing, by joining us at the high court in Cape Town, 09h00 Friday 29th January 2010. You can also support us by sharing this information in your community.

Contact: Eleanor Hoedemaker 074 724 7373 or Gwendolene Botha 084 213 8169