Hundreds protest along Mew Way and Spine Road as land invasions spike

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Cape Town – Land invaders descended on open land between the R300 and Baden Powell Drive interchanges on Tuesday.

Covid-19 Informal Settlement and Saniters Informal Settlement have a meeting with leaders on the N2 near Mew Way, Khayelitsha. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African news agency

The latest incident comes after Mfuleni residents over the weekend occupied City-owned land earmarked for families from Khayelitsha and Burundi.

The City of Cape Town has been experiencing a recent spike in land grabs after the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit, accompanied by law enforcement officers, demolished informal structures at eThembeni near Empolweni in Khayelitsha.

The City has subsequently been embroiled in a court case involving the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), represented by the Legal Resource Centre, over land evictions.

Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said that traffic on the interchanges at Mew Way and Spine Road had been affected due to burning of tyres and rubble. The Mew Way Bridge over the N2 was closed as a result.

According to police spokesperson Andre Traut, law enforcement agencies were keeping a close eye on the volatile situation.

The EFF, meanwhile, has thrown their support behind the land grabs in the metro.

Provincial spokesperson Aishah Cassiem said: “We would also like to make it clear that the EFF Cape Metro supports the land expropriation without compensation, and we will continue to be with our masses as they occupy land across Cape Town.”

Cassiem said the party encourages “our people” to intensify the occupation of the land in Khayelitsha, Delft, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Philippi, Gugulethu, Langa, Strand, and Klipheuwel among others in Cape Town.

“Soon we will start occupying the idling farms of Cape Town and this struggle will never stop until the land has been returned as a whole to its rightful owners and there’s nothing that the DA can do,” she said.

Mayor Dan Plato said: “These actions put communities at risk and we cannot tolerate it. All of us need to stop illegal invasions and violent protests. The poor simply cannot endure this any longer.”

He said over the weekend Khayelitsha land invaders burned down the Desmond Tutu Hall after the City prevented a land invasion in Mfuleni.

The mixed-use facility was built at a cost R1 million in response to the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa to expand capacity to combat Covid-19.

Plato said four people have been arrested in connection with this act and if found guilty, “we hope they face the full might of the law. A strong message must be sent that wanton acts of vandalism are unacceptable and only rob the community of much-needed services.”

Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith said it was counterproductive when members of the public actively chose to vandalise resources and assault City staff that work tirelessly to serve and help vulnerable communities.

Smith said a pump engine from the Lansdowne Road fire station was on route to informal structures alight in the area when the vehicle was surrounded along Mew Way and stoned.

None of the five staff members on board were hurt, but they were badly shaken up “and we will support them through the City’s employee wellness programme,” he said.

Several windows, including the windscreen and both doors, were damaged, so the vehicle was out of commission until the repairs were done.

“I’m also informed that protestors in Gugulethu have gathered in front of the fire station, threatening to prevent staff from leaving to attend to calls if their grievances aren’t addressed,” he said.

Smith said such incidents were deplorable, but on par with an emerging trend of which has resulted in the targeting of City infrastructure and employees in recent weeks.

He condemned what he called the callous acts that have put the safety of the staff in jeopardy, but have also robbed the communities of a valuable service.

Smith said once again the selfish behaviour of a few was putting the community at large at risk.

“I call on any person with information about the attack on our firefighters to please report it to our Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialing 021 480 7700 from a cellphone. Reports can be logged anonymously.”

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