Statement by Premier Helen Zille on the Lwandle Commission of Inquiry
On Friday 11 July 2014, the Department of Human Settlements received a letter from the Potgieter Committee investigating SANRAL’s June Lwandle evictions, inviting us to submit oral evidence to the Committee today.
That effectively gave us one working day's notice to prepare a submission.
This is a serious procedural problem in and of itself; but it compounds a concern that we have repeatedly expressed throughout the process followed by the National Minister after the evictions of 2 and 3 June.
It must be noted, from the outset, that the Province was not involved in the eviction process in any way. The City of Cape Town has provided the relevant factual background (see attachment), and indeed, to date, has led the humanitarian relief effort with our financial and logistical support.
The Province has pledged R1.5 million to assist in the procurement of materials, and for example, Minister Madikizela immediately joined Minister Sisulu in visiting the affected families and supporting the opening of the hall to assist them.
It was instructive that, a week after the evictions by SANRAL, and when the City’s relief efforts were in full swing, Minister Sisulu accused the Mayor and me of “politicking” about the matter and “failing to take responsibility” for the Lwandle residents from day one. She established the Committee of Inquiry in this context.
We are as keen as anyone else to establish the facts in the light of conflicting claims, but from the outset we knew that this Committee, its establishment, composition and terms of reference, raised more questions than answers about the motive for establishing it. I am on record as saying that it has all the hallmarks of a “political hit squad” in the same way that the Erasmus Commission, set up by Premier Rasool, was found to be by the High Court.
We have asked many questions, that to date remain unanswered: what was the legal basis on which the Minister established the committee?; the process used to do so?; the persons appointed to do so?; why Intergovernmental procedures had not been followed as required by the Constitution and the law?; and why Inquiries have not been established to investigate the many evictions that have occurred throughout the country since the Lwandle eviction (in, for example, Zandspruit, Alexandra, and eThekwini.)
It is worth noting, in this context, the complex and lengthy intergovernmental process that the Provincial government was required to undertake to set up a Commission of Inquiry into Policing in Khayelitsha – something I was constitutionally empowered to do. Nevertheless despite this power, the intergovernmental process took two years to complete.
It is also worth noting that a previous commission, set up by a former Premier who also had the power to set up a commission in law, was ruled unconstitutional and illegal because the motives were found to be “political” given the fact that none of the proper procedures had been followed in good faith.
I have previously raised the issue of the Committee’s composition. This is a serious matter. It includes ANC stalwart Annelize van Wyk who pre-judged the matter from the start in a Twitter tirade blaming the City for the Lwandle evictions; Nonhle Dambuza, an ANC MP; and a former ANC MP, Mampe Ramotsomai, who was reportedly arrested after 15 000 mandrax tablets were seized from her home in 2001, before the case mysteriously vanished from public view. The committee is to be chaired by Advocate Denzil Potgieter, who has previously been chastised by a judge for conducting an “improper” inquiry set up by Marius Fransman against a DA council.
The Shadow Minister of Human Settlements in Parliament, Makashule Gana, has asked Minister Sisulu key questions about these matters. She has not answered any of the questions to date, which we regard as a very serious matter, given that the Committee has already started its proceedings.
I have written two newsletters on the subject, pointing out how an ANC-supporting organisation called Ses’Khona has been allegedly involved in facilitating and encouraging land invasions, hijacking the relief effort by the City of Cape Town for their own patronage purposes, and involving the local ANC councillors in these activities.
Charges have been laid against members of Ses’Khona and a local ANC Councillor Matha, for allegedly kidnapping security on the SANRAL site and holding them hostage.
All these matters require in-depth investigation. And they require a credible committee to undertake such investigation, set up by the Mayor in consultation with other spheres of government.
Given our bitter past experience of “political hit squads” in the context of the unilateral and politicised approach the Minister has taken to this issue, we do not believe that the present processes passes legal or constitutional muster. We have sent our written comments to the Inquiry, but we have made it clear that we reserve our rights.