Today at 13:00, 4 March 2019 Reclaim the City members will accompany lawyers to deliver Site B court papers at the High Court. We will also do a silent action outside the High Court.
Last year December, Growthpoint Properties misled the Cape Town High Court to grant them an urgent interdict and used a private security company to suppress our right to protest. We are going to oppose the suppression of our right to protest on the 3rd of June.
On the 4th of December 2018, Reclaim the City, the Social Justice Coalition and the #UniteBehind coalition protested against the capture of Site B, by conducting a symbolic occupation of the land. The purpose of the protest was meant to raise awareness on the sale of well-located public land to private entities at below market value.
In 2016, the City of Cape Town auctioned Site B for R86,5m. The City undervalued the land, advertising rights to build a relatively small building when Site B actually had enough rights to build a skyscraper. As a result, the City lost out on up to R140m.
This is a gift of our best land to one of the wealthiest companies on the JSE, while poor and working-class people are forced to live far away without access to decent land and housing. So we gathered in the early morning with our zinc and wood to build shacks in a peaceful protest.
The City promised a forensic investigation into the botched sale of Site B but, no further action has been taken for far. The City must set a deadline to complete the investigation and make the findings public. It must clarify who is responsible and how they will be held accountable, including the role of the Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson, who was then MayCo member for Finance at the time.
On the day of the protest, Growthpoint asked the High Court for an urgent interdict to remove us from the site.
They applied for an interdict without inviting all the parties involved. This is known as an ex parte application. In their affidavit, Growthpoint’s representative Timothy Irvine stated that “The respondents in this matter are wholly unknown to the applicant” despite contacting our lawyers and visiting us at the site. They claimed that we were planning a large scale ‘invasion’ to settle on the land permanently. They also claimed that we were enriching ourselves by charging fees for plots. Growthpoint even claimed that the only people who are homeless in the area are those who have an “unfortunate dependence on alcohol and other substances and their homelessness is accordingly situational rather than as a result of economic conditions or lack of space.” Growthpoint used these claims without facts on their affidavits.
Growthpoint knew us and the reason for the protest but deliberately misled the court to ensure that we could not defend ourselves. In the late afternoon, Growthpoint secured its interdict and enforced it by deploying a private security company called Vetus Schola. Vetus Schola arrived in armoured vehicles and carrying automatic rifles to shut down the protest. The interdict was supposed to be enforced by the South African Police Services. It’s unacceptable that Growthpoint used a private security company to intimidate and threaten our peaceful protest.
Had the court heard our reasons for the symbolic protest it would have understood that nobody was depriving Growthpoint of its property, and everybody has an interest in holding them accountable and expressing one’s political view in a constitutional democracy that enshrines the right to freedom of expression and right to protest.
The court would have been cautious and protected our right to protest. We will oppose the interdict to protect the right to protest.
Reclaim this land. Reclaim the City. Reclaim all public land.
For media inquiry contact our Woodstock Chapter leader, Karen Hendricks on 0735869241