Cape Town battling a wave of land invasions and related protests

In the last year, the city has seen a 53% increase in the number of land invasions recorded. Protests relating to the land crisis have increased by 249%.

The City of Cape Town has released its annual Safety and Security Directorate’s statistics for the last year, with results pointing to a massive surge in illegal land occupations and protests.

According to the report, which has been covered by Business Tech, law enforcement agencies in Cape Town made 12,063 arrests in the 2017/18 financial year – a 17% increase from last year.

An increase in crime leads to an increase in arrests
The statistics relating to arrests reveal two scenarios: one, increased efficiency of the city’s law enforcement operations has resulted in more arrests, and two, Cape Town’s crime is on the rise.

Both of these circumstances hold true. Crime in and around Cape Town has increased; with blame being put squarely on the shoulders of an inept South African Police Service (SAPS), under national government administration.

Six local departments which focus on public safety
To counterbalance the national police force’s incompetence and understaffing, the City of Cape Town has bolstered forces within its own metro police department.

The Directorate consists of six departments that focus on public safety and includes the 107 Public Emergency Communication Centre; Disaster Risk Management Centre; Fire and Rescue Service; Metro Police Department; Law Enforcement Department and Cape Town Traffic Service.

Land invasions and housing-related protest action
A worrying criminal trend, responsible for the increase in arrests, is that of illegal land invasions and violent protest action related to the city’s housing crisis.

Spatial urban planning policies, a regressive legacy of the Apartheid regime, have created an uncomfortable and unaffordable divide between low-income working class citizens and their place of work, namely the city centre and immediate surrounds.

Suburban city surrounds have also been affected by gentrification; whereby rapid development increases the cost of living to the point of unaffordability for locals.

As a result, Cape Town is currently gripped by a housing crisis which leaves locals few alternatives but to move further away from the city, and in doing so, perpetuate the ongoing saga of problematic spatial planning.

It’s not an easy fix for the City of Cape Town, and it’s an issue which has bred widespread civil unrest.

In the last year, the city has seen a 53% increase in the number of land invasions recorded. Protests relating to the land crisis have increased by 249%.

In an official statement, released by the City of Cape Town, as part of Safety and Security Directorate’s annual report, it notes the knock-on effect of land occupations and protests, saying:

“This resulted in a knock-on effect on planned enforcement operations for Law Enforcement, Metro Police and Traffic Services as resources had to be diverted to assist the South African Police Service in terms of public order policing, effecting road closures and diverting traffic etc.

Apart from the fact that other enforcement priorities were compromised, there was also the cost of damage to city infrastructure and resources like buildings and vehicles, as well as a financial impact due to overtime costs.”