Occupants of the Hangberg civic centre could get the boot if permission is granted by the courts for a formal eviction to take place.
The civic centre has been off limits for community use for more than two years after four families made the hall their home. They were left homeless when a fire swept down the mountain slopes in Salamander Road in October 2018 and were meant to be temporarily accommodated at the hall, while the City of Cape Town searched for vacant land in the area, (“Fire victims occupy hall”, Sentinel News, November 15, 2019).
Now locals are questioning why and how families were allowed to remain for this long in a facility meant to be used by the community.
Hangberg resident Noleen Everts said a space for children and activities was being occupied by people who had free access to water and electricity there, while others struggled.
“It’s not jealousy, but those families have been allowed to live there for free and have a proper roof over their heads, while many of us must battle the elements and have also been affected by fires and flooding in the past,” she said.
“We not saying kick them out on the streets, but what we are questioning is why it’s taking so long. We can use that hall for so many things, but we can’t because we will be doing those activities in these people’s bedrooms and lounges.”
Ms Everts suggested the City consider relocating the families to free up the centre and also highlighted the many unsavoury activities unfolding around the civic.
She claimed that substance abuse and fighting topped the list of anti-social activities plaguing Hangberg civic centre.
“You will see everything wrong around the civic, a place meant to serve the community and create change. The only change we are seeing is a change in the appearance of the building, because everything was already stripped from that place,” Ms Everts said.
An incident on Monday July 25 went viral on social media when a man robbed a woman and then ran into the civic centre.
Peter Vlotman, from Hangberg, wrote on the Hout Bay Organised Facebook group: “A lady was robbed this morning by the bus stop and the thief ran into our civic centre. People occupying that space for long time now and we need help removing them please.”
He later confirmed that the suspect escaped, but that the belongings had been recovered inside the civic centre.
“I went to the civic centre after work and found the missing bag, but no details for the lady and I did put it on our community group,” he wrote.
Over the years, the City has made numerous efforts to relocate the families and provide assistance, but failed.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said the families would have been moved a while ago had it not been for some “bad advice” that was followed.
“Unfortunately, due to the involvement of a certain so-called ‘community leader’, the fire-affected residents refused the offer, and followed the bad advice,” Mr Quintas said.
The City proposed the Oude Skip temporary relocation area (TRA), offering to relocate the families and provide services such as electricity meters and access to water as well as sanitation.
“It took a very long period of time to get the majority to agree to an assisted move, and most apologised for having listened to that advice and were quite happy to eventually move, with help, to the new TRA, and are generally very happy there since,” Mr Quintas said
However, about four families refused to move to the TRA.
“Many times, a date and time were agreed on, and when our Informal Settlements teams got there to help them move, they either refused, weren’t there or had sold their starter kits,” Mr Quintas said.
Sentinel News visited the civic last week, but found only one person – outside – who was unwilling to share any information.
Mr Quintas added: “The bad faith from those remaining has been a great source of frustration.”
The City has now started the process of getting an eviction order for those remaining. The state of the facility is also being blamed on the families who had been occupying the space and left it “stripped bare and ruined”, according to Mr Quintas.
When the Disaster Regulations came into effect with the advent of Covid back in 2020, it prevented any eviction orders being heard by the courts, he explained.
“Now that the regulations are lifted, the civic centre eviction order application will be processed. We hope the courts will see reason and permit the City to evict the malcontents who have been involved in the destruction of that once well-used and much-loved centre,” Mr Quintas said.
“Once they have been removed, only then can we assess the full extent of the vandalism and theft and begin planning repairs.”