PRESSURE continued to mount on Cape Town city authorities on Thursday, with lobby group Social Justice Coalition (SJC) vowing to press ahead with protests over sanitation and mayor Patricia de Lille’s "authoritarian leadership of the city".
On the same day, residents of Marikana informal settlement in Philippi East said they would take the city to court over "illegal and immoral demolitions" of shacks in the area.
Housing and especially sanitation have become thorny issues in Cape Town in recent months, although the administration led by the Democratic Alliance (DA) has maintained that the protests are politically motivated and of no basis.
The "toilet wars" have been waging since before the 2010 Soccer World Cup, after the African National Congress (ANC) successfully brought a Human Rights Commission complaint against the City of Cape Town to install enclosed toilets in informal settlements.
On Wednesday, several activists including Treatment Action Campaign founder Zackie Achmat and SJC members were arrested and held for about 10 hours. The group were taken into custody from outside Ms de Lille’s offices at the Cape Town Civic Centre under the Illegal Gatherings Act.
Protesters had earlier chained themselves to railings outside the centre, and refused to move until the mayor spoke to them about the sanitation issues in Khayelitsha.
Ms de Lille did not come out to address the protesters, but later released a statement saying the protest was a "publicity stunt".
The SJC on Thursday accused Ms de Lille of "fabrication" after she had claimed that she had offered the coalition dates for a meeting next month.
"These are outright fabrications. The mayor only proposed these dates after the SJC’s lawyers, the Legal Resources Centre, had sent two letters and it was clear that the SJC would be taking legal action against the City. These dates would have been nearly two months after the SJC’s lawyers requested the meeting and the SJC tried telephonically to arrange earlier dates, all of which the mayor’s office refused," the coalition said.
According to the group, the main issue was an agreement on the content of a plan for the janitorial service and the process through which it was developed.
The SJC said it was willing to accept one of the dates proposed by Ms de Lille, only if she agreed to their demands stipulating the process for the devising of a policy and plan.
"If the mayor does not accept our demands for the process and follow through on her original commitments, we will continue to protest her authoritarian leadership of the City of Cape Town," the SJC said.
Cape Town mayoral committee member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg said on Thursday the city has had extensive engagements with the SJC over the past two years.
"This as a result of a genuine desire to co-operate wherever possible … (Ms de Lille) has provided two possible dates for a meeting to discuss their latest demands, but they have yet to respond. It is therefore puzzling that they state that the mayor is unwilling to engage," Mr Sonnenberg said.
He said the SJC "chose to ignore the fact that Cape Town leads the country in terms of the provision of sanitation". "The Department of Water Affairs has found that the city provides 100% access to adequate sanitation. This high level of service provision is underscored by the results of the census," Mr Sonnenberg said.
He said Cape Town had, in the past 10 years, experienced the second-highest rate of urbanisation in South Africa.
"As such, there will always be challenges related to the provision of sanitation, especially as a result of the peculiarities of the geography of the city and high levels of density. Despite these challenges, we continue to provide a range of high-quality services."
Also on Thursday, Marikana informal settlement residents said the city, through its Anti-Land Invasion attack unit, was leading a campaign to "make Cape Town unlivable". The informal settlement was named to honour those who died at Lonmin’s Marikana mine last year.
Earlier this year, a number of residents were evicted at the informal settlement, which is on private land. NTWA Dumela Investments bought the 200ha of land in 2007.
"We are aware that this is private land, but we will not move … the city has to provide alternative housing," resident Boitumelo Ramahlele said.