Housing activists march to President’s doorstep
The existing State Land Disposal Act could be used to fast track the use of public land for human settlement
- Land activists are urging the President to use the State Land Disposal Act of 1961 to make public land available for human settlement.
- About 600 people marched on Wednesday to the official Cape Town residence of President Cyril Ramaphosa to demand land.
- The Act grants the President the power to donate, sell, lease or exchange any piece of public land in the country.
- The activists have so far identified 32 parcels of land which this act could fast track for communities.
Activists have called on the Presidency to use the State Land Disposal Act of 1961 to make public land available for human settlement.
Nearly 600 people marched about four kilometres to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s official Cape Town residence to demand land. They carried placards that read: “Return land to people’s hands”, “President hear our plea”, and “Secure homes, secure futures” as they marched and sang struggle songs while pulling a mobile shack with them to the gates.
Thumeka Mzayiya, who dragged the shack along with two other protesters, said, “If the President doesn’t give us land, we will place all our shacks at his place.”
Wiseman Mpepo, secretary of Intlungu Yabahlali Basematyotyombeni, said, “Law Enforcement continues to destroy our shacks and seize our building materials. If we had land, we would not experience those things.”
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the land activist organisations said they would be submitting applications requesting 32 pieces of vacant and underutilised parcels of public land be given, using the act, to communities living with insecure tenure. The land identified is in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape.
The State Land Disposal Act 48 of 1961 is a piece of apartheid era legislation that grants the President the power to donate, sell, lease or exchange any piece of public land in the country. The same power is conferred to both national and provincial ministers of Public Works. While such donations need to take place in terms of a range of other laws, there is no legal barrier preventing public land from being donated to communities so that people can live decent, secure, dignified, and productive lives, say the organisations.
Nick Budlender, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, told GroundUp: “Communities identified land that they wanted to request – either land they currently live on or land nearby. We then investigated this land to verify ownership, check whether it is suitable and determine whether the government has any plans to use it.
“If the land is suitable, we then consulted with the community in question to gather their information and workshop ideas around potential land holding and development mechanisms.
“Finally, we put together the applications, checked them with communities, and then sent them to the President, the Minister of Public Works, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, and the relevant provincial ministers.”
Budlender said housing delivery had collapsed mainly due to a lack of government capacity and the dysfunction of state institutions.
“While housing budgets have declined in recent years, housing delivery began collapsing long before this happened, signalling that the root causes are deeper than just money. Housing is given less priority than it was in the past despite our ever-increasing housing backlog,” he said.
There were a number of approaches the government could take if it decided to donate land.
“What is most important is that the approach which is chosen is informed by, and meets the needs of the communities in question. Meaningful consultation and collaboration will be crucial to the successful development and management of any land that is donated,” said Budlender.
Unlike the much-debated expropriation bill, the State Land Disposal Act only applies to public land.
“The expropriation bill is highly contested and will take considerable time to come into effect, whereas the State Land Disposal Act could be used to effect meaningful land and tenure reform today,” he said.
The organisations said that its application was just the first phase and that they would be working with more communities across the country. The land is located in different provinces across the country but mainly the Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, and Gauteng.
The organisations involved in the campaign are Ndifuna Ukwazi, Indibano Yabahlali, Intlungu YaseMatyotyombeni, Reclaim the City, Housing Assembly, Surplus People’s Project, Barney Malokoena section, Abahlali baseMjondolo (KZN) and Inner City Federation (JHB).
Questions sent to the presidency had not been responded to at the time of publication.
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