The atmosphere was tense in Hangberg last week after Law Enforcement stepped in to tear down “partially built structures and foundations” said to have been built on the sand dunes.
A number of City of Cape Town workers, accompanied by Law Enforcement officers, gathered in Harbour Road before proceeding with the demolition.
For locals, it was a scene they have become familiar with, with their only concern that the community would be turned upside down, with residents retaliating against the City’s latest actions.
Fearing for their safety, many Hangberg residents did not want to speak to Sentinel News and those who did, asked to remain anonymous.
One said: “Nobody stands together here in this community, because you have one group fighting for what is right, you have another group fighting for what they want and in the end, they (are) all against each other.
“And if you as a resident speak up against all of this, there are individuals living around here who will victimise you and single you out.”
The concerned resident also explained that the structures in question were being built on “dangerous locations”.
“The City is tearing down structures that are half built on dangerous spots, because if something happens to this people, the City will also be blamed for allowing these people to build on a dangerous site,” the resident said.
Another local, who wanted the matter resolved, was fed up of “living life on the edge”.
“I am a retired nurse and I have worked in the trauma unit for nearly 32 years. So I have been surrounded by chaos and destruction, because I have seen so many things, but this community (Hangberg), will surprise you every day.”
The resident said images of young children fighting and mocking police were “sad”.
“Our kids are supposed to be enjoying their lives, being in school and just experiencing life, but when you see how many of our kids are recruited into these unnecessary altercations with law officials, it is really sad.”
In September last year, violence erupted in Hangberg when a handful of residents protested against the demolition of a half-built illegal structure.
In the process, a tree built from eco bricks at Sentinel Primary School was burnt down while boats, cars and road infrastructure were also damaged. The protests started when the City of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion and Informal Settlements Unit, joined by other law enforcement authorities, broke down the structure (“More protests in Hangberg”, Sentinel News, October 2, 2020).
According to the City of Cape Town, last week’s demolitions of partially-built structures and foundations were part of an ongoing operation in Hangberg, over which the City has a court interdict and in connection with which, the City has opened cases of trespassing.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said: “The reason for this is simple. The ongoing sand dune excavation and settlement is dangerous and will cause the dune to slide down, and bury ECDs and churches in its wake, as well as the illegal homes established there.”
Earlier this year, tragedy struck on the N2 in Nyanga, when children were buried alive as a result of the destabilised sand bank collapsing.
Mr Quintas said a similar situation would occur in Hangberg as well, and on a “much larger scale”.
“We cannot continue to allow persons to build over infrastructure nor build as they will with impunity, as the Rule of Law must be upheld, and we cannot simply leave Hangberg to degenerate down a spiral of lawlessness, where job creating investors steer clear, or sustainable town planning which allows for the growth of healthy, serviced communities becomes a pipe dream,“ Mr Quintas said.
Community activist and Hangberg resident, Roscoe Jacobs, called the City’s exercise “a wasteful one”.
“The demolition was not of a structure, but that of a fence around an already occupied structure. This exercise is a wasteful one and resources could be deployed to communities across Cape Town where taxi and gang violence is rife,” he said.
On the sand excavation, Mr Jacobs said the City failed to prevent this over the years, also claiming that homes being built could actually aid in preventing this.
“The City has failed to remedy this situation and now are wanting to cover their failure. The City of Cape Town’s failure and lack of political will to address the housing crisis has forced the resident to house themselves. It is procrastinating with the current housing project using lack of funds as an excuse,” Mr Jacobs said.
Despite no complaints having been received by the City regarding the structures, the City acted on the excavation of a plot for the intention of building a structure, according to Mr Quintas.
“Around the excavated area were remnants of building material which was confiscated,” he said.
During last week’s operation, Hout Bay SAPS arrested two men for incitement of violence.
Lieutenant Colonel Jerome Syster confirmed the City’s operation on Wednesday August 19, which resulted in the arrest of the two men the following day.
“On Thursday August 20, two suspects was arrested for public violence and inciting to public violence,” Lieutenant Colonel Syster said.
A handful of people gathered outside the Hout Bay police station to protest against the arrest of the two men.
The two men were set to appear in court on Friday August 21, but due to a Covid-19 related incident at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court last week, the two men were released at Hout Bay SAPS in order to appeared in court earlier this week.