A ‘victory for human rights’

The Little Angels creche was torched as angry residents questioned why it was allowed to stand but wendy houses were demolished.

The City of Cape Town said it is considering its options after the Western Cape High Court ordered that the City rebuild a shack in Hangberg on City-owned land they destroyed two weeks ago.

On Wednesday July 15, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe ruled in favour of the community, finding that the City’s eviction operation was unlawful and unconstitutional, ordering that the wendy structure be rebuilt within 48 hours.

The destruction of the “illegal structure” turned Hangberg on its head over the past few weeks, with tensions leaving the community on knife’s edge, with scenes of violence between law enforcement and residents, as well as the educare being burnt down by angry residents, still remaining fresh in the memory of locals.

Representing the residents was Vernon Seymour who said the outcome was a victory for the human rights of the people living in Hangberg.

“The court has shown the City that if you trample over people’s rights you will not get away with it. The City will now rethink the way they treat the poor. They are ordered to rebuild the structures within 48 hours and the chief registrar of the high court must be informed once this has been done,” Mr Seymour said.

Mayor Dan Plato said the City was disappointed in the decision, adding that another project meant to uplift Hangberg might have to take a back-seat.

According to Mr Plato, the structure will be rebuilt on land that was meant for the use of a community recreational centre, with a five-a-side soccer pitch component.

“The rebuilding of this illegally erected structure halts the planned development of the site for a recreational facility that would have included a five-a-side soccer pitch for use by the local community and youth in the area,” he said.

Mr Plato said the City had served the resident with a notice around the structure being built on City-owned land and two alternative sites were made available to the family.

“The judge still ruled in favour of the occupant of the illegally erected structure. This ruling was made despite the judge challenging the applicants on why they did not accept the alternatives offered,” Mr Plato said.

“While the structure was unoccupied and only partially built when it was removed, we note the judge’s order.”

The City will now consider their options regarding the judgment and also discuss the future of the proposed community facility for the site.

Hout Bay activists refuted claims of a community centre with a five-a-side court being planned for the Hangberg community, with Roscoe Jacobs and Lee Smith, saying in a statement: “As activists in Hout Bay who take a keen interest in community affairs, it is the first time that we heard about this alleged community facility in the pipeline for Hangberg. We have spoken to some sports people and community leaders in Hangberg – no one has ever heard about a proposed community facility at that site that the mayor is talking about.”

The pair also questioned why the City failed to mention the plans in court, but only raised the matter once the judgment was handed down.

The statement further read: “The only inference that can be drawn for the failure of the senior counsel to present this to court, is because no such reason existed.”

They were also aware of the alternative land options, but added that the City had once again failed to mention that the same land was offered to other families in the community.

“Our papers stated that we did not want tensions created in the Hangberg community ending up with residents fighting over plots to erect their wendy houses, because it will create unnecessary tensions within the community, in an already volatile situation,” the statement said.

Residents looked on as the City eventually made their way into Hangberg on Friday last week to rebuild the home of the Phillips family.

Hangberg resident, Glenville Easton, said it was a rather nice end to a rough period for Hangberg which ended with positive news. “It was not a nice thing watching these people being put on the street. The whole story might not come out now, but what we do know is those people are human and the City did this whole thing wrong,” he said.

“From day one when they came in here with full force, I already said this was not going to end well. Now they look like the bully who was caught and asked to clean toilets as their punishment in front of the whole school.”

Another resident Caroline Dove said the fight was only starting and it felt like the City would not give up that easily. “They look like fools now. They put on this big show, all that violence and destruction, only to end with them having to go back and fix what they destroyed,” she said. “I don’t think the City will leave it just like this. Give it a few weeks and then you will see their reaction.”

Sentinel News made numerous attempts to make contact with the Phillips family, but failed to get hold of them at the time of going to print.