Housing activists frustrated by President Ramaphosa’s six-month silence on public land act

They have been demanding that government use the State Land Disposal Act of 1961 to rapidly free up land for housing

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In August, Taiwan informal settlement resident Thumeka Mzayiya and Site B resident Nompumelelo Njombolwana dragged a mobile shack to the official Cape Town residence of President Cyril Ramaphosa. Archive photo: Vincent Lali

“There is a deep sense of frustration,” says Luyanda Mtamzeli, a political organiser at Ndifuna Ukwazi. This comes after six months of silence from President Cyril Ramaphosa on the use of the State Land Disposal Act of 1961.

In August 2023, we reported how several hundred land and housing activists marched to the President’s official Cape Town residence to demand that the State Land Disposal Act be used to give vacant and underutilised public land to communities who lack secure tenure.

The activists had identified 32 such parcels of land in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. They emailed the Presidency, the Western Cape Premier and several national and provincial departments.

“The complete lack of a response has left communities feeling like they have been abandoned by the government,” said Mtamzeli. “They have received no response from the President despite attempts to follow up.”

“Many people feel that the lack of response reveals a serious lack of political will and demonstrates conclusively that the government does not see land and housing as a priority at all. The only time people hear about land and housing is during elections, but otherwise they are left to fend for themselves,” he said.

“This is a major shame and missed opportunity,” said Mtamzeli.

The organisations involved include 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).

Ntobeko Mbingeleli, spokesperson for the Western Cape MEC for infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers, said the provincial government “continues to prioritise the provision of affordable housing … This includes the provision of land.”

Specifically asked about the old Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home (now renamed Ahmed Kathrada House by people occupying it), Mbingeleli said, “Provision is made for mixed residential accommodation, including affordable housing. Progress with this development is obviously hampered by the illegal occupation of the premises and the need to finalise alternative accommodation”.

We sent questions to presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya. He responded: “The disposal of government land cuts across the 3 spheres of government, and an application is made to that appropriate sphere. So far, the Department of Agriculture, Land and Rural Development has not received any application for disposal from any of these organisations or seen the research report from Ndifuna Ukwazi. National government does dispose land to provincial, municipality or communities for human settlement purposes. There’s no specific land for which they have made an application.”

TOPICS:  Housing Land

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