Land invasions are becoming an increasing problem across South Africa. Since the lockdown was introduced there have been numerous land invasions, particularly in the Western Cape and Gauteng Province. With land evictions happening concurrently, invasions will continue unless South Africans’ grievances are taken seriously by the government.
The question of land has been a relevant issue in the history of South Africa. During the apartheid, black people were banned from owning most of the land. They were removed from their homes and forced into segregated neighbourhoods. After 26 years of freedom and democracy, black South Africans still don’t own the land which is why there are so many land invasions to this day. People want the land and their dignity restored.
The State Land Audit reveals that whites own 72% of the country’s land, followed by coloured people at 14%, Indians at 5%, and Africans 4%. Land invasions are indisputably unconstitutional, however, it cannot be ignored that these invasions are a sign that black South Africans are in dire need of adequate living conditions. Poor service delivery and the failure to redistribute the land are the most pertinent issues that affect black South Africans today.
A widely circulated video showed a naked Bulelani Qholani being thrown out of his shack by the members of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit at Empolweni informal settlement in Khayelitsha. The video showed that there is no difference between evictions and what the apartheid government did to black South Africans by forcefully removing them from their homes.
Since Monday, some residents from Khayelitsha have been protesting over demolished shacks in a new informal settlement called Covid-19. These residents lost their source of income due to the coronavirus pandemic and can’t afford to pay rent anymore. In April, residents of Lawley in the south of Johannesburg were protesting over the City’s decision to evict them from the area. About 80 shacks were demolished by the notorious red ants.
Since 1994, there have been people who applied for houses in areas where they live in or their forefathers had been removed, during Apartheid, but until today they don’t own houses. This indicates that the struggle for land has been continuously ignored by the government. Land invasion is one of the alternative tactics that the poor, powerless and homeless people adopt to access land on which to build their shelter. Some people occupy the land illegally as a way of forcing the government to provide them with houses.
If the government doesn’t provide houses for landless citizens they will continue to occupy the unused land. They will not follow the correct procedures because for them, the correct procedures take too long and housing is a matter that requires urgency.
It is therefore important for the government to take decisive measures to prioritise the provision of adequate housing to those in need to avoid land invasions. Land invasions and subsequent protests will continue until the government decides to act with speed and realise the rights of people that need land for survival.