Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters has apologised for the evictions in Lwandle, near Somerset West.
On Tuesday evening, she told SABC news she apologises “on behalf of Sanral [the South African National Roads Agency] and on behalf of ourselves as government, we apologise to these people”.
“But we also expect them to work together with government to adhere to the decisions we made.”
She continued, “We also want partnership with the City of Cape Town because municipal services needs to be provided by the City of Cape Town.”
Peters said the Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu would meet with the Western Cape human settlements MEC to address a short- and long-term solution.
“We have already said to Sanral and the sheriff [of the court] to stop the evictions because we believe this is actually the wrong time,” she said.
The City’s fault
However, earlier on Tuesday Sanral said the City of Cape Town could have avoided the eviction of shack dwellers in Lwandle settlement.
“This situation might not have arisen if the city did not walk away from the discussions with Sanral to find an amicable solution to the issue,” Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said in a statement.
“Despite the City’s efforts to put the blame on Sanral, the agency’s offer to donate land to Cape Town remains open,” Mona said. “We call on the City to rescind its decision and restart the process to find a workable solution that will benefit the poor communities affected by recent events.”
The eviction of shack dwellers began on Monday and continued into Tuesday.
Sanral , the owner of the land, was granted an eviction order by the high court in Cape Town earlier this year.
Western Cape police said 10 people had been arrested for alleged public violence since the evictions began, with petrol bombs thrown and tyres set alight.
Mona said Sanral had been engaging with the City since 2003 to relocate the occupants living in the road to alternative accommodation or serviced sites.
“The deliberate inaction of the city brought this process to an abrupt end. This caused further invasion of the land. Sanral eventually had no other option to apply for a high court Order to prevent further land invasions.”
Earlier, the City’s human settlements MMC Siyabulela Mamkeli said those evicted would be given short-term shelter.
“The City cannot incentivise illegal land invasion by providing alternative accommodation, as we have a duty to protect the rights of those people who are on the housing waiting list,” Mamkeli said in a statement.
“However, as part of our commitment to being a caring city, the City of Cape Town has decided to make available community facilities to those people affected by Sanral’s legal action.”
Democratic Alliance (DA) national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said the ANC blaming the party for the evictions was nothing short of cheap and petty politicking. “It is entirely disingenuous and in no way accurate,” she said in a statement.
“Yesterday [Monday], Sanral, a national state entity, through the sheriff of the court enforced an interdict against people occupying land owned by it.” She said responsibility for the evictions lay squarely with Sanral and the national transport department, who sought the court interdict themselves and who owned the land in question.
Earlier, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa claimed the eviction was punishment for the community not voting for the DA in the May 7 general elections. “The ANC condemns the eviction … by the Cape Town metro without being given alternative accommodation as required by the law,” he said in a statement. “This is tantamount to undermining democracy and the freedom of choice by the DA metro.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters said on Tuesday these evictions were anti-black and anti-poor. “This has occurred on rainy and cold winter days as if calculated to inflict maximum pain on the poor,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.
“It is no secret that South African cities, due to historic and continued problems of unemployment, poverty and inequalities have always been zones of exclusion for the poor and black people in particular.”
Ndlozi said the fact the evictions took place after the May 7 general elections was confirmation of an “unholy alliance” against the poor between the ANC and the DA. “Had the execution of the eviction order been genuine, it would have happened earlier this year,” he said.
“Demolitions and evictions are unnecessary and solve no problem except to subject poor people to vile conditions and total destitution.” – Additional reporting by Sapa