Hermanus Land Grab: What Has Sparked the Violence?
Hermanus entered a fifth day of uncertainty, as protests originating from an attempted land grab last Friday have continued in the coastal town.
The biggest attempted land grab yet in #SouthAfrica is happening in Hermanus today.— Willem Petzer (@willempet) March 26, 2018
Tens of thousands of people can be seen invading the small coastal town of Hermanus. Many people's property have also been set on fire (see news article tagged).
Source: https://t.co/2S2K7QqNnl pic.twitter.com/blenisQ251
News 24 reported that shops in the Zwelihle area were looted, just hours after a local police station was torched. Thankfully, there have been no fatalities despite tensions remaining extremely high.
Hermanus South Africa. The sleepy seaside town of wine, surf & whales currently under siege by destructive, land grabbers while the South African news media reports “nothing to see here, back to normal, safe to travel”... It’s not! #Hermanus #ExpropriationWithoutCompensation pic.twitter.com/Jf7Nn1Ptyt— riekiedplessis (@riekiedplessis) March 23, 2018
What happened with the land grab attempt?
Last week, a group of residents in the Overstrand region took up occupancy on vacant land belonging to the state. They marked out plots for themselves and marched to the municipal manager’s office to demand a supply of water and electricity.
#Hermanus #SouthAfrica SITUATION CONTINUING AS WITNESSES REPORT INTIMIDATION OF AFRICAN SOUTH AFRICANS BY EFF NOT TO GO TO WORK. APPARENTLY 8 KILLED. WHITES ARE OPENLY TARGETED. MORE ATTACKS FEARED TONIGHT. pic.twitter.com/Jy0PW2iNRJ— Yani Meyer (@YaniMeyer1) March 26, 2018
DA Constituency Head of Overstrand, Masizole Mnqasela, confirmed that police have arrested over 25 people in connection with land invasion, public unrest and other illegal activities.
Why are people protesting in Hermanus?
Those protesting are furious about how long they’ve had to wait to be given housing. Some have allegedly been made to wait 25 years to be relocated from settlements, and those affected are frustrated at the perceived lack of progress.
Another undercurrent seems to be that of xenophobia. Somali shop owners and residents have apparently been targeted in the protests, accused of “taking up space” that is needed for locals.
ANC, Gwede Mantashe react
Gwede Mantashe in the National Chairperson of the ANC. Addressing the audience at an open dialogue on land redistribution, he was unable to avoid the issue currently hounding Hermanus.
RED ANTS, Law Enforcement and Public Order police busy dispersing the crowd pic.twitter.com/GaWs9DkHH9— RED ANTS CAPE TOWN (@REDANTS_CT) March 26, 2018
Speaking on behalf of his party, Mantashe condemned the situation as anarchy. He also implored rational South Africans to “take the lead” on finding land solutions, otherwise “extreme factions” would dominate the debate:
“What happened in Hermanus is anarchy and the law enforcement officers must do its job. It can’t be that just because there is this policy we now occupy prime development land.”
Has land expropriation played a part?
Mantashe does seem to be acknowledging this has had an influence. His language indicates that the advancement of the land expropriation might have emboldened those involved with the demonstrations.
The ANC’s chairperson warning about “land extremism” also infers that redistribution is at the heart of the issue. President Cyril Ramaphosa must soon find a way to clearly communicate how this policy will be implemented. With uncertainty breeding speculation, South Africa needs answers.