City marks Hugenden for IY expansion

Protests over tree feeling have taken place on the site.

The City of Cape Town is eyeing the acquisition of properties in Hughenden Estate to establish future housing developments.

This has now been confirmed after an invitation to attend a meeting to discuss possible acquisition of these properties, was sent to the area’s 19 homeowners on Monday September 18.

The meeting with the residents will take place in Constantia on Tuesday October 3.

In August, the Sentinel asked the City whether it had any plans to to purchase additional property alongside Imizamo Yethu, or whether it was considering buying up properties for these purposes in the areas of Hughenden, Penzance and Meadows (“Speculation soars on ‘land grab’, Sentinel, August 11). At the time residents said they had been approached by a property developer going by the name of Michael MacGiver or McGiver, believing he was employed by the City.

While mayoral committee member for urban development, Brett Herron, said the City was not aware of this developer nor the name of a property agent named by the residents, he did not directly address the question of offers to purchase in these areas, only saying the City was “exploring various local options”.

The issue of the letters to the 19 homeowners by the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority has now cemented their belief that the City intends “chasing” them out of their homes in order to extend Imizamo Yethu and in particular, Dontse Yakhe.

Hughenden, Meadows and Riverside Terrace residents have already taken exception to the proposed establishment of an emergency housing site above the cemetery on Hout Bay Road, saying this will present a massive safety and security risk as there is only one formal entrance into and out of Hughenden Road.

While residents were given until September 15 to object to the site, they have pursued other courses of action to dissuade the City from going ahead with it.

A Change.org petition has received more than 2 300 signatures to date, while the residents have also staged protests against the felling of trees on the site – something the City says is within its rights to do, but residents have questioned given the timing of the proposed housing project.

Last Thursday, September 21, a tense stand-off between Hughenden and Meadows residents and Imizamo Yethu community leaders ensued. The leaders of the informal settlement descended on the site in order to ensure the tree-felling went ahead, saying they had been promised the land by Mayor Patricia de Lille for emergency housing.

The Hughenden residents believe the actions of the City are “underhanded”.

One property owner, Michael Ahlfanger, grew up under communist rule in East Germany. He said when he moved to South Africa in 2000, he hoped that he would be able to leave the scars of his “undemocratic” past behind him, but what he was experiencing now dredged up painful memories of a stifling system.

“All I ever wanted in life was to own my own house, and I managed to do that here. But what is happening now, it is taking me back to where I came from. The City is wanting to force us from our homes, and is just doing what it wants to,” he said.

“The thing is, I am not at all against the City using the site, but this must be used to build proper homes for the people, so that the Imizamo Yethu residents can be integrated into Hughenden. We would never have objected to such a plan.”

Mr Ahlfanger said he was aware that some people chose to label the Hughenden and Meadows objectors racist, but this was not the case at all.

“We want people living in acceptable conditions and integrated into Hout Bay but this must be in a controlled manner.

“I came to this country to give back. In my business I employ 50 people from the local community, hoping to give them good lives. I came to South Africa because the country offered hope for all, and I was excited about the democratic changes that were taking place. But now the City of Cape Town wants to force me out of my home, in which I have invested heavily over the years.”

Mr Ahlfanger’s wife, Melissa Risi, questioned why millions of rand were to be spent by the City on implementing infrastructure for the cemetery site, if it was only to serve in a temporary capacity.

Ms Risi said Hout Bay needed to revisit the inclusively negotiated agreements reached between the City, Cosatu, Imizamo Yethu leaders, ANC, DA and Hout Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association during the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR)-facilitated discussions.

These lasted a year and led to a set of Imizamo Yethu development principles that were publicly presented by Ms De Lille in 2007.

“This will bring us back to the inclusive plan for all. We do not accept that all this work was simply rejected by the City and we insist they explain why these principles have been ignored and swept off the table,” she said.

“The most important conclusion reached by the IJR report was that Hout Bay must be a model for all of South Africa. Furthermore that it must be sustainable and cannot simply grow beyond its carrying capacity which has already been far exceeded.

“The IJR agreement required the City to identify alternative land outside Hout Bay, as a top priority a decade ago, in order to accommodate those that cannot be housed within a sustainable, fully integrated formal IY suburb.”

The residents have enlisted the services of land consultant Andrew Jakins in an effort to find an acceptable solution for all stakeholders.

“The IJR process should have been followed up. We should have revisited the outcomes of the IJR process via further negotiation. That would perhaps have paved the way for IJR 2. The City couldn’t simply go off at a tangent, and ignoring this process.”

Mr Herron said the City regularly purchased land across the city, not only in Hout Bay.

“The meeting scheduled with owners is part of the City’s investigation into the potential acquisition of additional land in Hout Bay. No official option has been in the pipeline; the City is only engaging with land owners at this stage,” he said.

“The Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) is interested in acquiring additional land for new formal housing projects. The City has previously applied for high density formal housing projects within the IY neighbourhood, but these proposals were not permitted and now the City must seek additional land for new formal housing.”

Mr Herron confirmed that some eucalyptus trees had been removed from the site, which was being prepared in the event that the application for temporary emergency accommodation was approved by the mayor.

He said the City was in the process of assessing and considering the comments that it had received during the comment period and would respond to those who have commented.

“A report would be submitted to the mayor for decision in due course.”