Another attempt to get residents living at the Hangberg Improvement Development Area (HIDA) connected to electricity has been halted as City workers were chased away.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas confirmed that the City of Cape Town’s electricity staff were meant to install legal electricity meters to eligible beneficiaries living on City-owned land in Hangberg.
“This is the second time we have gone on site to deliver this much needed and anticipated service and been chased off by non-beneficiaries,” he said, confirming that workers were stopped by residents living on SANPARKs land.
Another phase of the project was also stopped last year by residents living in the informal settlements on the outskirts of the area, who prevented the City’s contractors from installing the meters at nearly 40 informal houses in HIDA, (“Protesters pull plug on electricity programme”, Sentinel News, December 13, 2019).
“This selfish act by those who know full well our legislative restrictions on servicing land belonging to other organs of state or spheres of government not only denies those living in HIDA the opportunity to have services, but puts them at ongoing risk of fire,” Mr Quintas said.
He added that the City remained “willing and available” to do what they were mandated to do and said: “We have shown this by twice being onsite and attempting to deliver electricity but we cannot do so when our staff or equipment are at risk.”
Hout Bay came to a stand-still last year, when locals protested outside the new electricity depot being built in Harbour Road. The protest, believed to be over housing, took place outside the electrical facility where locals felt housing was needed instead (“Harbour Road closed due to protests”, Sentinel News, September 17, 2019).
The second disruption has raised quite a few eyebrows within the community, especially locals who stood to benefit from the project.
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous in fear of her safety, wished to express her concerns around the manner in which the guilty parties chose to demonstrate their concerns.
“We understand the frustrations most people are going through, but why can’t these people understand that they are preventing us from having services. Services that are going to also help and take care of our kids and families,” the resident says.
The mother of three was even more concerned that the City allowed these demonstrators to “feel as if they won”.
“The council just packed up their things and left.
“It’s like these guys are controlling us, controlling what we get and when we get it, all because they are not following the rules and regulations, now everybody must suffer and nobody gets helped,” she angrily said, hiding behind her door in fear of being seen talking to the Sentinel News.
Edward Jensen said the disruption delayed services they had been waiting for.
“There are people here who actually want to co-operate with the City and then there are people who just want to make trouble and this kind of trouble affects everybody,” he said.
Mr Jensen was initially excited to see City vans rolling up preparing to do the installations, but said something in his gut told him it was not going to happen.
“People are always talking in this community and there are a few individuals here that want to pull the strings and be in control. The only way they can try and get us on their side is to prevent us from getting services like this,” he said.
The Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) was surprised to hear that yet another phase of this project was halted.
Spokesperson for the PMF, Warren Abrahams, had urged the City to make contact with the PMF in order for them to ensure that they safely enter the area and carry out the work.
“We have informed the City to make contact with the PMF area representatives to monitor and inform the beneficiaries when they want to come and install the electricity supply,” Mr Abrahams said.
However, he confirmed that “none of the reps” were notified to confirm proposed dates for the installations to take place.
“I also make sure there are representatives present at the site. I will once again ask the community to support phase 2 of electrification and to assist the City in any way possible,” Mr Abrahams added.
He said efforts were made to inform the City to start at the “willing and less volatile” areas, starting in Texas, Dallas and other informal areas, before working their way up to HIDA.