Over 700 housing opportunities lost due to vandalism and land invasions
In the past 3 years, the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements has experienced more than 1600 invasions of land earmarked for human settlement development across the province. During this same period, more than 100 Breaking New Ground (BNG) houses were vandalised by illegal occupiers. The Department spent just over R100 million to secure its properties and to prevent invasions for the past 3-year period. An additional R24 million has also been spent repairing vandalised houses. It is deeply concerning that the money spent on securing land and repairing vandalised houses could have been used to build over 700 BNG housing units for Western Cape citizens.
Provincial Minister of Infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers said, “The impact of invasions and illegal occupation of BNGs, results in the damaging of units that costs the Department additional funds to fix and secure the projects. It can take up to 3 months and more to fix those damages. It also delays delivery to the rightful owners of the houses. Illegal occupations ultimately do not only hamper our ability to reach our targets, but more importantly, severely delay the delivery of housing opportunities to deserving beneficiaries. It saddens me that much of the money spent to secure our sites and developments could have gone to providing more houses for deserving people.” Minister Simmers has called on communities to report any illegal activities during the festive period.
During this festive season, the Department has allocated additional security to secure and protect its land and development sites. The Department also works closely with authorities to act swiftly to prevent unlawful attempts to invade land and illegally occupy BNG houses.
The Department calls on community members to assist in preventing land invasion, illegal occupation and vandalism of BNG houses. Should any resident notice any suspicious activity on open or state-owned land, or at a government housing development in their area, please report it to SAPS, the City of Cape Town’s Anti Land Invasion Unit or the Western Cape Government’s Settlement Control Unit.
CITY OF CAPE TOWN ANTI-LAND INVASION UNIT - 021 480 7700
WESTERN CAPE HUMAN SETTLEMENT CONTROL UNIT - 021 826 5701
By remaining vigilant during this festive period and reporting suspicious activities, communities can assist in preventing these incidents, which will result in the increased delivery of housing opportunities and social infrastructure to residents of the Western Cape.
Land invasions and illegal occupations hurt the most vulnerable in our communities and mean that qualifying beneficiaries have to wait much longer to receive their homes. These incidents severely impact the Department of Human Settlements’ ability to deliver housing opportunities to already identified, qualifying and deserving beneficiaries, that have been patiently and legally waiting on the Housing Demand Database (ie. waiting list) for assistance.
In many instances, land that gets invaded is land that is earmarked for the delivery of housing or critical social infrastructure for our communities. The Department’s Acting Director of Communication, Ms Muneera Allie, commented that “Many perpetrators see invasions as a means to jump the queue to be assisted with housing opportunities. In some cases, invaders are evicted, in other cases it results in additional obligations being placed on the state to provide access to basic services. This ultimately impacts and skews the allocation of budget and pipeline of housing opportunities planned by the Department”.
During the COVID-19 lockdown period, two sites were invaded that formed part of the Silvertown Project in Khayelitsha. More than 500 units and serviced sites could not be built as a result of the invasion. During this same period, in Thembalethu, George, municipal land was invaded which formed part of the larger Upgrading of Informal Settlements Project (UISP). This invaded piece of land is now detached from the UISP project and limited the implementation of full services that was planned for the project. In late November 2022, a group of 20 armed individuals threatened to illegally occupy vacant units at the Department’s Vlakkeland Housing Project in Paarl. The intruders were not identified, but upon seeing that the houses were still under construction, threatened that they would return when the houses are complete. As a result, additional security has been arranged to mitigate for this risk during the festive period.
While incidents of land invasion, illegal occupation and vandalism of BNG units is experienced throughout the year, the festive season is often a popular time for perpetrators to make unlawful attempts on government property. This ultimately results in additional costs to secure land and construction developments, and adds to the delay in delivering housing opportunities to residents of the Western Cape.