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City’s anti-land invasion unit to stop land grabs

The City of Cape Town has set up an anti-land invasion unit (ALIU) to stop people attempting to illegally occupy land which has been identified for housing people on the City’s housing waiting list.

“In fairness to the majority of law abiding people on the waiting list, the City is adopting a zero tolerance approach to the minority trying to invade City-owned property,” says Mzwandile Sokupa, the City’s Manager:Informal Settlements.

“One cannot jump the housing queue by invading land. The City’s waiting list cannot be jeopardized so easily. By invading land, you will be considered last for housing allocation. Also, most open areas near informal settlements have already been reserved for housing projects,” says Sokupa.

The City’s ALIU will prevent the illegal occupation of City and Provincial land and housing project land that are meant for residents on the waiting list. which currently stands at approximately 400 000 (44% of Cape Town’s households).

The City’s current housing database has been developed through the integration of the various waiting lists of the former municipalities. It records the names and personal details of people who have expressed an interest in a housing opportunity (in the form of rentals, ownership and/or a serviced site); those applicants who have been assisted by the City with a housing opportunity; and those individuals whose applications have been cancelled.

Members of the public can check whether they are on the housing database by accessing the City’s website at and can e-mail with their queries.

The Housing Directorate sends waiting list information via short message service (SMS) messaging to applicants with a cell phone. This is particularly useful for individuals who reside in informal settlements without a postal service.

There are currently 223 informal settlements in Cape Town, with 150 000 families registered on the City’s database of informal settlements.

“The City is currently driving a programme to provide informal settlements with basic services such as water, sanitation, access roads and electricity where possible. At the same time, the City is gradually upgrading informal settlements into formal townships,” says Sokupa.

The main role of the ALIU will be to monitor and patrol vacant land, enforce the rule of law with respect to illegal occupation of land and illegal shack building, and provide backup to housing officers during evictions, relocations and the demolition of illegal structures.

It will also assist with the planning of services and emergency services during flood and fire disasters on City-owned land.

The unit is headed by Stephen Hayward from the Housing Directorate and Joseph Ross, from Law Enforcement. Additional staff are currently being recruited and at full strength the ALIU will consist of 97 members - 57 from the City’s Housing Directorate and 40 from the City’s Specialised Services Unit in the Safety and Security Directorate.

When fully staffed it will provide a 24/7 service, covering the City’s eight planning districts across the metropole.

“Most importantly, the City will follow the letter of the law in obtaining interdicts and eviction orders. The law is very clear on this and we will continue to abide strictly to the Prevention of Illegal Evictions from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, as well as the provisions of the Constitution,” says Hayward.

“During the past year, the City addressed 29 land invasions - 17 in Helderberg, six in Tygerberg, two in the South/Central region and four in Blaauwberg. In every instance, the City successfully removed the land invaders from the City-owned land. It also obtained eight court interdicts to prevent people from further occupying land.

“Many communities across the city are thoroughly fed up with on-going land grabs and illegal structures mushrooming overnight on their doorsteps,” says Hayward. Once a site has been occupied, not only is conventional civil engineering impossible, current eviction legislation makes it difficult to reverse the situation.

To reinforce the ALIU’s efforts and prevent land invasions before they occur, the City also works with community leaders, and has streamlined its public call centre processes.

Members of the public can report land invasions anonymously to the ALIU’s mpimpa toll-free line on 0800 225 669.
Martin Pollack
© City of Cape Town, 2016