Social housing organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) urged the public to comment and reject the City’s new draft Unlawful Occupation by-law, preventing it from being turned into law.

In a statement released on Tuesday, NU said the draft by-law “raises constitutional alarm” and was a “shocking assault on poor and working class families”.

The organisation said the draft by-law would criminalise unlawful occupation by creating several offences that could result in the issuing of a fine and/or imprisonment of between six months and two years.

The by-law would also allow officials to arrest occupants without a warrant, impound their building materials and goods, search them, and identify and monitor land and buildings susceptible to unlawful occupations.

The draft Unlawful Occupation by-law is open for public comment until July 31.

NU attorney Danielle Louw said: “The time and manner of the City’s call for public participation does not offer those who stand to be most affected by the draft by-law a meaningful opportunity to engage with its content.

“We aren’t aware of any actions taken by the City to raise awareness in informal settlement communities on the draft by-law. Their omission bypasses the central tenets of consultation and people-centeredness, and true community participation as envisaged in our participative constitutional democracy. This again demonstrates how the City prioritises property over people, rather than using property for the benefit of people.”

The draft by-law states that any structure can be dismantled should occupants not yield. The draft by-law also states that should force be required, the level of force is “justifiable” and “proportional”.

Mayco member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said: “The spike in unlawful occupations since the start of the March 2020 Covid-19 lockdown is causing severe challenges on the ground, as we can see from the high level of flooding incidents and where they have occurred.”

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