Press Release: City officials Restrict March by N2 Gateway Communities

22 07 2008
Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Statement
July 22, 2008

On Thursday, 24 July 2008, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign will be leading a march to the Provincial Department of Local Government and Housing to protest the continued privatization of housing construction. Beginning at 10 am at Keizergragt Street, marchers will arrive outside the Provincial offices of MEC Richard Dyantyi to deliver a memorandum to the MEC as well as Prince Xanthi Sigcawu of Thubelisha Homes and Lloyd Nussey of Trafalgar.

Jointly planned by the various communities impacted by the N2 Gateway Project, this march bring together the residents of the Joe Slovo informal settlement, the occupants of the Joe Slovo Phase 1 flats, and the families of the Symphony Way informal settlement in Delft, along with other communities from across the Western Cape region. While each of these communities has struggled individually, this march will be their first collective action directed at the lack of genuine public participation that has been the hallmark of the N2 Gateway Project.

Over the past several months, these three communities have faced increasing intimidation from municipal and provincial officials as well as the companies to whom housing construction and management has been outsourced. Even though the residents of the Joe Slovo settlement will be challenging their forced removal to Delft before the SA Constitutional Court on 21 August, MEC Dyantyi has already applied for the rezoning of the land they now occupy – as if this community has already lost its legal appeal.

In Joe Slovo Phase 1 flats, those on a rent boycott to call attention to shoddy construction and escalating rent have begun receiving threatening letters from Trafalgar’s lawyer. And in a meeting in Osterberg last week (17/7/08), City of Cape Town Informal Settlements Manager Gregory Exford threatened representatives from the Symphony Way community with an eviction order from the Department of Roads and Transportation if they did not move from off the pavement to a Temporary Relocation Area so as to allow for the reopening of Symphony Way.

City officials also threatened to arrest the three members of the Anti-Eviction Campaign convening the march if they refused to comply with a predetermined march route. In a meeting at the Cape Town Civic Centre held on Monday, 21 July 2008, Officer Mangale from the Traffic Police refused to permit a march that included Thubelisha Homes on Lower Berg Street and Trafalgar on Bree Street along the route, citing the inconvenience to motorists, the possibility of injuries and potential damage to property. “We will make the decision whether to grant this march or not,” argued Mangale.

When the AEC members resolved to march whether or not they had a permit from the city, Officer De Graaf from the Public Order Police threatened to arrest them for not complying with the city’s requirements. After three hours of negotiations, the march conveners and city officials agreed on a route that would only bring marchers to the MEC’s office.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign condemns the efforts by officers Mangale and De Graaf to limit their democratic right of assembly and freedom of expression. “The city workers are public servants. They must let the poor express themselves,” said AEC member Gary Hartzenberg.

The Anti-Eviction Campaign also condemns the ongoing efforts of city and provincial officials to push through their plans over the objections of poor people. Public participation must exist in practice, not just on paper!

The campaign also invites all struggling communities to join with the residents of Joe Slovo, Joe Slovo Phase 1, and Symphony Way on Thursday in calling for a transparent and accountable process to solve South Africa’s housing crisis.

Phansi Forced Removal! Phansi High Rent! Phansi Privatisation!

For more information:

Ashraf Cassiem
Mncedisi Twalo
Gary Hartzenberg