Cape Town passes unlawful occupations by-law, despite protest

Housing activists claim it criminalises homeless people and is inconsistent with legislation governing unlawful evictions.
Image: Mike Hutchings, Reuters

Housing activist groups have condemned the Unlawful Occupations By-law which was passed by the City of Cape Town on Wednesday, saying that it will criminalise people in need of housing and those living in shacks.

An amended Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances By-law was also voted on and passed. This by-law provides for compliance notices to be issued to people sleeping in public places. The by-law states that they must be offered alternative shelter, and that they are committing an offence if a reasonable offer for shelter is refused.

On Wednesday, over 50 people from housing activist groups Reclaim the City, Ndifuna Ukwazi and the Housing Assembly protested outside the Cape Town Civic Centre. Their intention was to put pressure on the City Council while it voted on the Unlawful Occupations By-law. The by-law was passed during the protest.

This by-law “specifies the conditions under which a structure can be dismantled to protect land from illegal occupation”. Under the by-law, City officials would be able to dismantle the structure and impound the occupier’s possessions if it is on land under the City’s control or if the structure is “not yet capable of constituting a home” on any other land. Those convicted under an offence of the by-law could face fines or imprisonment.

Karen Hendricks from Reclaim the City questioned whether the by-law was constitutional and said it contradicted the PIE Act (Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act) which prevents unlawful evictions and describes the procedures for evicting unlawful occupiers.

In a statement on Wednesday, the City said the by-law would address “large gaps” in the PIE Act. The objectives of the by-law are to “prevent the unlawful occupation of land and buildings” and to “monitor, control, and regulate the growth of informal settlements within the city”, the statement said.

“The by-law explicitly sets out existing powers of law enforcement to protect land and buildings from unlawful occupation, but does not grant new powers nor sanctions, other than what already exists in law,” the statement said. The by-law “supports the City’s discretion to act on behalf of private landowners and other entities when unlawful land occupation attempts occur”.

Hendricks said that the by-law would displace landless people and people living in informal settlements and occupations in Cape Town. “The by-law essentially gives the City of Cape Town’s officials the power to constitute what a home is,” she said.

She said that Cape Town is facing a deepening housing crisis and the by-law was an injustice that will “displace even more people”.

After the by-law was passed, Buhle Booi from Ndifuna Ukwazi, addressing the crowd, said that it would criminalise those living in shacks. “If my home is a shack then it is not a home enough,” he said.

Sibusiso Xabangela from the Housing Assembly said that it is wrong that under the by-law “a city official will determine if a structure is worth being called your home”. He said that people often had no choice but to occupy land. He said land occupations are caused by overcrowding in homes, unaffordable rent, the pressure of Covid-19, and job losses.

“The City is trying to find loopholes on how they can demolish our houses,” said Xabangela.

But there is also support for the by-law. One message in circulation on neighbourhood WhatsApp groups reads: “It is crucial that affected communities being overrun by illegal land occupations and those experiencing the negative effects of homeless people setting up camps on verges, sidewalks, public spaces and parks support the passing of these two by-laws which aim to reverse area investment killing decay.”

The message calls for people to ask their local ward councillors to support the two by-laws by voting in favour of them in Council. “Give them the encouragement to boldly vote for your rights to a safe and clean environment where law and order is restored equally for all.”

This article was first posted on GroundUp, here.

© 2021 GroundUp. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


Picking on the poor is easy, because the DA thinks they can’t fight back! But they’re misguided in this regard.

Cape Town has hundreds of empty holiday apartments, especially in the Atlantic Seaboard that are empty for most of the year.

When the “expropriation without compensation” law is put into practice, this is where they should begin.

We got a live one here folks, the earth is flat type of pillar of morality … lead on sweetie.

Its acting like an ANC bot

The empty holiday apartments still need to pay taxes and levies. They also provide jobs indirectly to the tourism sector during seasonal boom.

Usually, people who are indigent can apply to be exempted from rates and taxes.

Henry, Henry, why are you answering this person as if he/she/whatever is capable of a rational thought?

the members of parliament housing is empty for half the year, no need for EWC because it belongs to everybody.

Both the ANC and EFF dont care about the poor… its blatantly obvious….

Show the poor your lucky packet/parcel and they begging for more at your feet… they vote for you …

and then you forget them for 5 Years…. 5 lonely years. then you go back to them begging for their vote.

They stupid and you lot are opportunistic.

Trust the EFF.

Hey Effy – your Shebeen phoned — If you do not come quickly you cannot vote to be commissar next week.–Better get down there boy !!

It’s high time we nationalised the Atlantic Seaboard.

So how many homeless individuals are living on your personal property, shill?

Not one, eh?

Hypocrite. Go tell your Lootfeely House handlers you’re terrible value for money, shill, then go smoke some nyaope, the one thing that is at least within your pathetically limited abilities.

Haha what planet do you come from….with that mindset there will be nothing to plunder…..socialism only works in wealthy countries you idiot….everyone contributes so everyone benefits. Nobody contributes leaves everyone left with nothing!

Haha what planet do you come from?
Socialism only works in wealthy countries where everyone contributes so everyone can enjoy the benefits!
These same countries have decent honest governments and politicians, not ones that steal from tax payers to the detriment of the poor and disenfranchised.
Get real buddy!

I am really like your ideas, They can start by Expropriating the room in your house which you only occupy for 8 hours a day, that way at least two people can have a place to call home for 8 hours each.

There is also your bathroom which if you work only get used for a maximum of 1 hour and your living room and and your kitchen, lead by example and see who follows you.

According to the wonderfully written human settlements policy, a room is classified as an area of 4m2 or greater, that means in your house we could probably about 20 people.

By the way you cannot disconnect the water or power, then you are classified as a criminal because you are denying someone the basic human rights.

Thank You.

“Legal plunder has two roots: One of them, as I have said before, is in human greed; the other is in false philanthropy.”
― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

What motivates the opportunistic socialists to go on this naive crusade to rescue the poor and less privileged members of society? The EFF and the ANC use the poor as raw material to be transformed into consumer goods as part of their political business model. They are professional politicians who act in their own narrow self-interest when they peddle cheap substandard goods to ignorant and stupid voters. They are motivated by stupid greed, and not by benevolence. They want a salaried position in parliament or at the municipality. They want to live at the expense of the taxpayer, the property owner, and the worker.

The second group consists of false philanthropists who are eager to show their benevolence by spending other people’s money, never their own. They are on this “brave” crusade for the poor, while they don’t pay the minimum wage to their personal gardener and domestic worker. They don’t supply housing to their employees, but they expect you to do so. They never donate one cent to charitable organizations or offer to contribute their time and effort for the benefit of others. They simply advocate changes in the law to force other people to fund the charity. Their level of pretence is nauseating.

Both these groups want to dominate public opinion and prescribe their destructive agenda to society. They are not interested in the value of individual choice and liberty. They propagate their opinion as law, even though they never intend to conform to their own laws. This is the road to slavery.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions …… and ignorance.

Well said. I doubt the socialists and komrades will understand what you say. I hope readers will stop replying to the eef bot!!! He seems unhappy and stirs hatred, trouble and destruction…

Why not invite them to erect their temporary housing on the lawns of one of your fatcat leaders homesteads or perhaps the acres of open parking space in the Parliamentary precinct.

Your outrageous disdain for laws intended to safeguard the norms and structures of society are the very reason you mongs will never rule or get the chance to impose your free for all communist nonsense on South Africa.

Put the millions of hectares in the EC to use and stop stealing other people property and just relocating armed with nothing to add but demands!

To date I have yet to see these activists (read politicians in the making) come up with any feasible proposal to solve the housing crisis. A brick costs what a brick costs. Come up with a tangible proposal for the powers that be to consider, not try to win political brownie points.

If a displaced person decides to pitch a tent in your local park which you pay taxes to enjoy then I am all for the passing of these by-laws. There are shelters for these people yet they can afford to buy a tent for the purpose of living on city or private land, they must put an end to this nonsense once and for all! Yes yes I know I’m offending all the tree-hugging bunny-loving snowflakes out there but their heads are so far in the clouds maybe these by-laws will bring them back down to ground.

What the social activists complain about, and what the by-law intends to target, are two completely separate issues, that, on the surface, seems to go hand in hand. It should definitely be law that anyone occupying land illegally (especially on sidewalks, parks, etc.) in urban spaces should be evicted. That these people do not have access to adequate housing is an entirely separate issue, that should be lobbied as such. Illegal erection and occupation of land = breaking the law. Lack of housing = various different factors contributing to this. I, for one, am happy about this. Too many illegal huts, tents, etc springing up all around the city. These social activists abhor rule and law, and provide no actual contribution to resolving the core housing, employment and social issues (coincidentally, why are kids being allowed to live and beg on street corners with these parents?) that goes hand in hand with these. They should rather push for more inclusive, affordable housing being erected in closer proximity to urban areas. Not illegal occupation and all social ills that goes with it.

This is very much “A boring dystopia” situation. Its easy to be born into privilege, as in base privileges like parents, food and a home, not holidaying twice a year to plett, kind of privilege.

Every human, many born into these situation by no fault of their own, or experience terrible luck and didnt have a family to fall back on like many of us do, deserves to have some basic comforts and if you disagree with that sentiment, then to be frank the world doesn’t need someone like you around. Life doesn’t have to be the dog eat dog world the boomers love to tell us it is. Maybe we can be good to each other and make sure a small child can sleep safely and warm tonight.

I’m not calling for a literal free for all but if a human trying to find a dry place to sleep bugs you then dam sort yourself out.

Oooh, I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy now. Next we will all light a campfire, maybe in the centre of town, and sing Kumbaya. What rubbish.

Griet you sound like most boomers I’ve meet. Feel you have “pulled yourself up from your boot straps”, Mr “I never received help and look at me” Griet. You grew up during apartheid, you had an entire system setup to benefit you, never mind theres a good chance you inherited dirty-apartheid-era-earned money and never had to worry about anything besides whether you were going to the border to get murdered by Cubans. You grew up in a time when money was free and anyone that could count to 10 could get 100% bonds. Before you not only display your lack basic empathy, humanity, as well as gross ignorance and indifference again in public, maybe rather keep your “tough guy” act to yourself

How much space would there be if the MILLIONS of undocumented foreigners go back to their own countries?? There should not be any tents now should there??

Oh and by the way many of the “boomers” you refer to has been living under the current regime’s racist BEE and transformation policies for almost 30 years!!! not so?? For many that’s almost half of your life.. Also its is the half where you are supposed to be able to make sure you have saved enough for old age.

Many of the so-called boomers had to go and work in other countries and many did well because of that. anc indirectly the result that many did very well. The anc and it’s racist BEE, transformation policies is the cause that many complain but most have made a plan. Most are stronger as a result. Many have gone elsewhere.

The bottom line is this country is in it’s current state due to the anc thieves running it.

Strange how some got stronger as a result of discrimination and others fell apart and has to live of handouts? Apartheid??? No my friend nothing to do with that.

HitchesGhost grew up poor, from parents who in their turn grew up dirt poor. Was advantaged by apartheid, but I took my opportunities, limited as they were and ran with them. So did my husband who came from similar circumstances. When we graduated we owed so much in student loans, we could have bought a good house if we had the money. Interest rates on home loans if you get one, ran at 27%. “Money was free”. Gosh, we were all idiots, as we never noticed! No handouts, no free rides, no unconconditional bursaries, only blood sweat and tears. Supported our siblings to get educated and our parents till their death, nothing to inherit. Yes, I do not support breeding what you cannot feed, paying for students to “study” useless degrees for free on my dime, drug users in tents in my backyard. Sorry if you find that offensive. There is an entire system set up to benefit a new set of people, for more than 25 years already, why no results?

So how many homeless people are living on your property?

Oh. Yes. None.


The sooner my kid can get out this place the better. You expose exactly the mindset that the coming generation of children will have to contend with. And you are probably more educated that the average ANC/EFF votah.

Move to Minnesota…you’ll fit right in, comrade!

Cape Town has for centuries had a fairly low population density in proportion to its size. That’s because it may have some spectacular areas and green vineyards but is mostly sand veld ie the Cape Flats. Very sadly, coloured folk were pushed out into those nether regions from the 50’s onward and the resultant social ills will probably never be solved. The significantly aggravating factor is people coming from east of the Fish River and who can find no work and for whom there can never be formal housing (the city cannot fund it and they won’t / can’t do it themselves). Its basically like 10 people living in a 2 bedroom apartment. The only solution is population reduction yet it only grows. It’s Africa’s curse. Population growth massively outstrips GDP.

The social ills you refer to long preceded the move to the Cape Flats. District Six wasn’t some peaceful Nirvana. The gangs and the crime were there too.

Can the W Cape now pass laws dealing with the repatriation of the millions of illegal immigrants.

Logically follows !!!

Nobody is criminalizing ‘homelessness’, every city has ordinances to deal with non lawful occupation of properties and spaces within its jurisdiction. Cape Town cannot be like Johannesburg, where people just cull sheep on the main street, cut and weave hair near food sellers and all that, and dirty curtains hang from buildings in the CBD like we are in a market in Kibira! That’s not how to make a city successful, that just inviting chaos and disorder. Our people know how to abide by the law, and by the law they must abide – to do otherwise is to invite anarchy.

A few boring facts: on CapeTalk Radio today the City revealed that there are at least 100 beds in shelters available now and this is not exceptional.

In 2011 the population of Cape Town was 3,698,000 (when the City ran pretty well) and today it is 4,709,990, an increase of 1,011,990 …. an extra million + people – a 28% increase, who are hardly likely to be contributors to City Revenue.

This million wants the same services as the original 3,7 million without making much of a contribution. Work that out.

… and as a member of a FB group involved in cleaning up the Liesbeek River which runs from Table Mountain to Table Bay, I got a post showing the piles of clothing and junk dumped not the river by the “homeless”. So the middle class ratepayers in the area are spending their weekends cleaning up the filth that the “homeless” dump in what was once a pristine river.

Sigh …

that should be “into the river” …

Sanity prevails at last. Rate payers have been heard and the Municipality is doing the right thing now that Aunty Pat is not trying to protect her job and sowing seeds of discontent!
Homelessness is not a Municipal problem, it’s a governmental problem. The ANC and EFF don’t really give a rats arse for the poor and disenfranchised ( the enormous amount of corruption and theft is testament to that!) and the tax paying base is diminishing as we speak…
Time for tax and rate payers to get what they pay for.

Everybody has sympathy for this problem until if happens in the empty lot next to your house or school or business.

People should not live like that, but by same token the other owners should not need to put up with how 20 homeless people end up impacting the neighbourhood.

I doubt homeless people prefer or choose to live like that. Governments need to sort it out, that is why they get all the tax. Steal less, build more homes

My Zim 2c to this debate is that many of these “homeless” people and shack dwellers have at least one other home or family to provide for. This is back in the ANC controlled, or despot run Trump name they came from (as refugees). All done, encouraged and/or supported by the ANC regime.

No happy ending in sight.

Empty vessels make the most noise

The EFF and ANC will stoke the fires of supposed racism and human rights violations. But then look at what they have given us in the inner city slums like central Joburg and Pretoria, and the rampant destruction, neglect and bankruptcy in smaller towns that they run, as well as active rioting in KZN and Gauteng.

That is what the ANC and EFF give South Africa.

Allegedly unlawful. So people should be allowed to live wherever they like then? The real failure is with national government who’s constitutional duty is to provide shelter.

End of comments.




Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us:

Search Articles:
Click a Company: