Electricity depot debate

The Hout Bay Civic Association secretary, Roscoe Jacobs, at the site where the new electricity depot is being built.

The construction of an electricity depot in Hangberg has left some residents disgruntled.

Residents claim that the City of Cape Town failed to consult with them and that they would have preferred to see more housing opportunities for locals instead of the depot.

Roscoe Jacobs, secretary for the Hout Bay Civic Association, said the land in question was earmarked for housing and they felt the City had violated the Municipal Systems Act as no consultation with residents had taken place before construction went ahead.

“The community was never consulted on the decision to build the electricity depot; this failure to consult is a violation of the Municipal Systems Act. We have people providing housing for themselves because the City of Cape Town is failing to deliver. We still have people in our community without basic services.”

Mr Jacobs felt that the new depot would be a waste, as the area already had a depot currently in use.

He said a complaint will be lodged with the office of the public protector regarding the City’s alleged failure to engage the community on the depot.

“As for the City’s intention to lease land to the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) for a recycling depot, we will be opposing it as this land must be used for housing as per the peace accord,” he said.

After the unrest and protests in 2010, known as “the Battle of Hangberg”, in which 62 people were arrested and 18 injured, a peace accord was signed by the PMF, the City, the provincial government and SANParks in 2011. This accord outlined that both erven would be used for housing. The accord was made an order by the Western Cape High Court and Mr Jacobs said the City was in direct violation of it.

“The ward councillor of Ward 74, Rob Quintas, recently admitted that the City didn’t consult the community on its decision to build the depot here,” Mr Jacobs said.

Mr Quintas, however, said multiple community meetings were held to address the ongoing need for housing in Hangberg and several pockets of land were purchased for the intention of building housing.

He said some of the parcels of land were deemed “unsuitable” due to the fallout from the stacks of the fish oil processing plant. “The site in question was one of the parcels which were of concern due to the emissions of the factory,” Mr Quintas said.

According to Mr Quintas, in order to provide additional housing as a matter of urgency, the City was able to secure two new housing sites which form part of Hangberg Housing Phase 2.

“These were introduced to the community in a large public meeting in December last year, and the project steering committee and contractors and consultants have been elected and appointed and we are making meaningful progress,” he said, adding that the current site would not be ruled out for housing in future.

The site in question remains a possibility for phase 3 housing in the future, but in the interim, the collective recyclers of Hangberg are in need a space for sorting and storing. It is also believed that the City is considering leasing the land for recycling purposes, and the agreement is that “no permanent structures are to be erected, and as with all City leases: if, as and when the City requires the site for any purpose, such as housing, the site will revert within a month to the City.”

“It should be clear that the advantage of the City providing this unused site as a recycling location serves multiple beneficial purposes, namely economic activity for recyclers, a cleaner less polluted and untidy Hangberg which often suffers from blocked drains and sewers due to irresponsible plastic and other recyclable waste disposal,” Mr Quintas said. He confirmed that the site will remain under the jurisdiction of the City.

Hangberg resident and mother of five, Winona Martinus, lives in her two-bedroom home with her children, two grandchildren and father-in-law and said things have become a little cramped.

Ms Martinus has been patient though, having waited for as long as nearly 15 years to call a house her home. “I am from Hangberg and so are my parents. We were never fortunate to have our own house or someplace to call home. We are very patient though, but it has become very difficult, especially with the children growing up now,” she said.

She found the construction of the depot “quite sad” as another piece of land goes towards something she claims is “not needed”.

“We need houses not more dump sites. Everybody in Hangberg talks about getting a house or wanting that dream of getting their own house. So when you see land being used for a dump site and not your future home, it does get a little frustrating,” Ms Martinus explained.

But Mr Quintas said leasing out the site would also allow the City to protect and maintain the land by a “legitimate interest group” who would secure the site and prevent illegal dumping from taking place. “It will also prevent the anti-social drug and criminal element who allegedly use the space after dark,” he said.

“When budget allows, the site can still be considered for future housing for phase 3. Currently, the City is focusing on two housing projects for phase 2,” Mr Quintas said.

The Peace and Mediation Forum in Hangberg supported the City’s decision, saying there was a need for the depot due to the number of electricity trip outs, cables burning out, poles being damaged and in some fire emergencies, electricity supply needing to be switched off.

Warren Abrahams, secretary and social development co-ordinator of the PMF, said they were aware of the City purchasing the land for housing, but due to the Oceana Emission Air Study as well as zoning of the erf, it was noted and relayed in public meetings that the erven cannot be developed for housing.

“Due to it being zoned as industrial, the electricity depot could be built on the site. The PMF and the majority of the community welcome the electricity depot, because this is a service that every person in Hout Bay struggles with,” Mr Abrahams said. He said meetings were held to inform residents that the erf would not be appropriate for housing and that an electricity depot would be built instead.

“The way it was done may not be to our liking, but the electricity depot is needed,” he said.