This coming week will see the Cape High Court deliver a verdict in the application to have illegal squatters removed from the Schulphoek land.
This not only has implications for Hermanus and the Overstrand but also for the rest of the country. At stake here is the fine line between upholding the law of private property ownership on the one hand, and basic human rights on the other.
We have seen many landgrabs leading up to the May elections, with nearly all political parties spewing rhetoric over the expropriation of land without compensation. No matter what side of the fence you sit on land, is and will continue to be an emotional topic.
At this stage we, as the residents of the Overstrand need to remain calm and level-headed. The lives of many people are in the balance here and there are many facets that need to be taken into consideration. The first is the right of the legal owners of the land not to have it invaded.
At the same time the owners also have a moral obligation not to seek the highest possible price for the land should it be sold to government. To make huge gains at the expense of the poorest of the poor is not acceptable in a global environment where the triple bottom line is becoming the norm rather than the exception. In the instance of Schulphoek, expropriation with fair compensation would have been appropriate – especially taking into consideration the purchase price of the land.
The second is that the illegal occupation of land cannot be tolerated. Despite all the rhetoric in favour thereof, the rule of law cannot simply be ignored. It is, and should remain, unlawful for anyone to simply claim a piece of land and call it their own. Rules, regulations, laws and common sense govern the actions of every citizen of this country and we should all adhere to them.
Residents of the Overstrand need to work together with their civic and political leaders to find peaceful and lasting solutions to our housing problems. The way forward will not be easy but polarising different communities will not be to our benefit and we should take the utmost care to work together as one, unified community.