/ 22 February 2008

Western Cape govt mulls lawsuit over Delft

The Western Cape government may join in a contemplated R20-million lawsuit claim against a Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor it claims is behind the illegal occupation of houses at Delft on the Cape Flats.

Premier Ebrahim Rasool said on Friday that his administration has been given ”preliminary” legal advice that it could sue the DA as well.

Several thousand people were this week evicted from the homes they have occupied illegally since December last year.

DA ward councillor Frank Martin allegedly encouraged the occupation of the homes, most of them meant for people being moved to make way for the N2 Gateway housing project elsewhere in the city.

He has been criminally charged with inciting the invasion and his role is also under investigation by the city council.

Thubelisha director Xhanti Sigcawu said this week his company is contemplating suing Martin for about R20-million, the cost of repairing damage caused by the illegal occupants.

Rasool said on Friday the DA had either instructed Martin to lead the invasion, or allowed him to do so by not intervening to stop him.

”I think it is as clear as daylight that the mayor [Helen Zille, who is also leader of the DA] has not condemned someone whose salary she pays … he’s a favourite,” he said.

”We think that both Frank Martin and the DA must be held responsible for the at least R20-million damages that were caused in Delft.”

Preliminary advice from the province’s legal affairs division is that the province is entitled to join the Thubelisha claim because the Delft houses are on its land and Thubelisha is its agent.

Rasool’s cabinet will decide next week whether it will in fact do so, and whether to extend the claim to target the DA as well.

The aim, Rasool said, is ”to make sure that no one can cause such damage and think they can get away with it without paying”, and he will use all the legal means at his disposal to make sure that responsibility is placed at the door of Martin and his party.

The only way to deal with the city’s housing problem is in an orderly way: chaos such as the Delft occupation would mean a disaster every day.

”Fairness and transparency is going to be our only weapon in a very difficult situation,” he said.

Provincial minister of social services Kholeka Mqulwana said the province’s ”service providers” are supplying meals to the displaced occupants, and social workers are conducting an audit to make sure children are not missing school. — Sapa