Dozens of people were left homeless after being evicted from Sanral-owned land in Lwandle informal settlement in the Western Cape. This resulted in violent protests, which have led to arrests of several individuals.
In trying to unravel the mystery of the land invasions and the subsequent protests, it appears that there are two sides to the issue. According to Sanral spokesman, Vusi Mona, the City of Cape Town abdicated its responsibility towards the residents that ended up being evicted. He added that the evictions could have been avoided if the City of Cape Town had not pulled out of the talks with Sanral to find an amicable solution to the issue of the shack dwellers of the Lwandle settlement.
Mona further said that Sanral started trying to engage with the city fathers as early as 2003 when the illegal settlements started mushrooming. There was however no reciprocation of the gesture. Tiyani Ponto-Rikhotso, department of transport spokesperson, added his voice to the call to place the blame for the evictions on the N2 road reserve. He said that the department has evidence that the city fathers had blocked plans to acquire alternative land to relocate the families on the Sanral land.
On the other hand, the City of Cape Town argues that since the land in question belonged to Sanral, the city has not been responsible for policing the land. Human resources MMC, Siyabulela Mamkele, added that the city had repeatedly advised the the road agency to protect its land against invasion. The road agency responded by employing a security company to police the area in which the said land was but this did not stem further inflow of illegal inhabitants. According to Vusi Mona, it is at this point that Sanral had no choice but to get a High Court order that would curb further land invasions. This order was granted on January 24 this year.
This is the court order that led to forceful evictions that started on Monday and continued into Tuesday. As usual, the evictions led to counter protests from the Lwandle inhabitants, which turned violent. According to the police, more than 10 people had been arrested in connection with the protests, which seem to have involved petrol bombings and other forms of violence. Lt-Col Andre Traut informed the media that three people had been arrested on Tuesday while seven had been arrested on Monday.
Responding to the plight of the evictees, the transport minister as well as the human settlement minister had pledged to visit the areas to make an on the ground assessment of the situation and see how they can assist the individuals affected.