The recent violent demonstrations in Zwelihle, Hermanus in the Overstrand Municipality must be and have been condemned. In a democracy we simply cannot condone violence of any kind. There is a need to inculcate a culture of engagement and sense of belonging in communities.
The police station, the library and the shops that were destroyed during the protests belonged to the community. The community is the poorer today, not the government, because of the damages they incurred and they have almost literally cut off their own noses to spite their own face.
Even more so, the community must recognise that their protest and their demonstrations, which is a constitutionally enshrined right, can be hijacked by criminal elements. Often there is a fine line between what is constitutional and what is criminal. The demonstrations in Zwelihle are a sad example of this.
While we may not agree with the violence and while we emphatically condemn it, one can understand where it stems from. People are frustrated. After nearly a decade of Democratic Alliance (DA) rule in the Western Cape we still see budgets being returned to the National Treasury leaving communities in a constant state of poverty.
When addressing the community in Zwelihle, in the aftermath of the protests, Human Settlements Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo is reported to have said that it was unacceptable that funds for service delivery in the province were returned annually to national government, unspent. In a province with a sizeable housing backlog, Minister Mfeketo highlighted that among the funds returned to national government, Human Settlements was among the highest.
These ill-practices not only has devastating consequences but also frustrates poor communities.
While the challenges pertain primarily to housing, the issue of land also arose during the protests. Instead of addressing this critical issue, and given the debate in our country at the moment, the DA provincial government under Premier Helen Zille prefers to pontificate that our province boasts a “success rate” of 62% for land reform in respect of farming. This figure announced in her penultimate State of the Province Address means nothing to those hungry in communities such as Zwelihle when more needs to be done, more urgently. In addition, there is no appearance of ‘land reform’ in the provincial budget.
In the instance of the Overstrand, one cannot but question the circumstances and conditions in which the sale of municipal land such as Schulphoek took place. The land was apparently “sold” to private developers. The ANC will call an investigation into the sale of this land because the community, in whose name the municipality governs, is much more in need of the land than for it to be privatised.
While the budget allocated R2.642 for “supporting agriculture and agri-processing sectors”, that is, the farmers, hardly anything is mentioned on land reform. The DA pays scant attention to addressing the plight of the poor.
In this year’s budget it appears that municipalities are spending up to sixty-percent of their budgets on building roads instead of focusing on other essential services such as housing, decent sanitation and waste removal. As a result, when frustration reaches tipping point in a community, blame is shifted to someone else or national government.
When the department of agriculture released their research and realised the enormity of the task of land reform, MEC Alan Winde suggested that all role-players such as agricultural organisations, local government and national government work together to achieve land reform in the province.
From an ANC standpoint, there is a real demand for land in the Western Cape province and a commitment to acquiring land in a responsible manner and disposing of the land that is already in the hands of the state in a responsible manner. A thorough and systematic approach i required in ensuring the availability of land for the building of integrated human settlements. Places where communities may live and thrive. For example in the Western Cape, the ANC is committed to stop the sale of the Tafelberg site in Sea Point and the sale of all well located public land to the private sector for cash. At a provincial government level well located public land must be released or transferred to municipalities for social and affordable housing.
There is a critical need to identify all public land in the province; whether this land belongs to national, provincial government or the municipality. Thus, the ANC will aim to ensure the land be ring-fenced and a moratorium be placed on the selling of public land or land belonging to any sphere of government. additionally, efforts will be geared toward working with national and provincial departments of human settlements to ensure that integrated communities are built and that whatever land is left is made available for socio-economic purposes.
The ANC will push for a land audit that will be made public in Overstrand (Hermanus and surrounds) and ensure that all spheres of government make available land for the public consumption. The aim is to work towards a shift from the ongoing privatisation of land.
Constitutionalism and democracy will only mean something to people when their most basic needs have been met. Those basic needs include access to land and decent shelter. There is no need for violence and the destruction of property in building a country and communities, thus, priorities must be placed in the right order. For now, land and integrated human settlements is a high priority.
Faiez Jacobs is the Provincial Secretary of the ANC in the Western Cape