/ 19 February 2009

DA councillor suspended over housing invasions

A Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor has been suspended for allegedly instigating the biggest post-1994 home invasion in South Africa, the director general of housing said on Wednesday.

DG Itumeleng Kotsoane said in a statement that the Cape Town City Council’s disciplinary committee suspended DA councillor Frank Martin on Wednesday for a month.

This followed Martin’s alleged involvement in the illegal invasion of the 1 700 houses that were under construction as part of the N2 Gateway development in Delft in December 2007.

Kotsoane said: ”The monetary cost of the invasion, which endured for three months prior to the invaders being evicted by the sheriff of the court, amounted to more than R40-million.”

”This includes legal and security costs, and the costs of repairing damage to the homes. It excludes the costs of delays to the project, and the considerable human costs,” he said.

Kotsoane said: ”Councillor Martin’s actions effectively rendered people homeless. He encouraged them to leave backyard dwellings they lived in to mount the invasion.”

He said many of the people who invaded the houses were left with nothing and nowhere to go after they were evicted.

”It appears the Cape Town City Council, in its wisdom, has hopelessly underestimated the gravity of this case.

In particular, the council underestimated the cost to the most vulnerable people, whose aspirations for dignified homes were exploited for narrow political gain,” Kotsoane said.

He said Martin deliberately undermined the legitimacy of the state and transgressed government processes applicable to housing allocations.

Kotsoane added that Martin’s sentence did not match his crime, in human or financial terms.

He said now that he had been judged and found guilty by a committee constituted by his peers, criminal charges must be initiated.

”The Department of Housing will pursue legal processes. Councillor Martin must account for his actions in a court of law,” Kotsoane said. — Sapa