Frustration as protests stall service delivery in Hangberg

The electricity depot out in Hangberg has always been the target for angry protesters, who feel the land could have better used for housing purposes.

Hangberg is growing more frustrated by the day as services in their community continue to be stalled by riots and protests.

Residents claim that a handful of people are behind the “selfish acts” and only fight to “highlight their own agendas”.

Malicka Ajam said the electricity depot was meant to being relief to Hangberg and make things easier on the community.

“These people running around protesting and fighting against police say they are doing for us, to represent us. But how are you representing us by burning down schools and damaging things that is meant to build our community?” Ms Ajam asked.

She was also sad to see the youth being recruited and now being part of the reason why services such as the electricity depot are being delayed.

“If you look at the children, they are being told by our adults what to do and how to act. When the depot was attacked the last time, you saw children throwing stones and running out of the depot with tools and things,” she said.

The building of the electricity depot already got off to a rocky start, when some residents questioned the use of the land for a depot rather than housing.

Another frustrated resident said the riots they were experiencing lately did little more than break down their community.

Edward Franklyn remains puzzled about how people can complain about lack of services in Hangberg.

“People in this community are always complaining, comparing our community with the leafy suburbs, but truth be told, you don’t see people running around burning a school in Constantia or Bishopscourt,” he said.

“You want better services, then you burn a school. How does that make sense at all? Our kids watch this and tomorrow they do want to attend school, but rather wait for the next protest.”

Mr Franklyn admitted housing was “much-needed” in Hangberg, but not at the expense of other important services in the community.

“We are a community and what people don’t realise is that you just pushing us further down the pecking order, because people are saying that we are breaking down our own community and then turn around and ask for help. This cycle must stop,” Mr Franklyn said.

The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for energy and climate change, Phindile Maxiti, said at the time that the land had been purchased and reserved for the City’s Electricity Generation Distribution Department back in December 2016 for the purpose of building a service depot.

“This is part of the City’s plan to take services closer to customers by positioning service depots within the boundaries or a reasonable radius from the communities intended to be serviced,” Mr Maxiti said.

“Currently Hout Bay is serviced from Wynberg, which is not ideal as it does not enable quick response.”

In 2019, a group of residents decided to loot and damage property at the electricity depot after a resident had received an eviction order from the City. This prompted Mayor Dan Plato to step in, bringing the riots to an end after meeting with them to discuss their grievances.

Jan Lewis, chairperson of the Peace and Mediation Forum, said there was so much to be done in Hangberg, but due to the actions of certain individuals, everybody in the area suffered.

“These few negative individuals have become the gatekeepers of this community, choosing violence as solution,” Mr Lewis said.

He explained that many people in Hangberg were unhappy with the way things were being handled.

“This electricity depot is a good initiative that will solve the electricity problems in our community. When Metro Police comes to break down a structure, then the depot becomes the target. We all know who the culprits are and it’s sad that we are seeing kids damaging the depot too,” Mr Lewis said.

He also pointed out that people in Hangberg report the erection of shacks, but then also join the protests when officials arrive to dismantle the shacks.

Violent protests out in Hangberg have resulted in clashes with police over land disputes and illegal land occupation.

“It is sad that we see ourselves as victims. We feel sorry for ourselves and therefore we think we deserve free things; free houses; free money and we never teach our kids the value of hard work,” Mr Lewis said.

“Our greatest enemy as a community today is blaming everybody and hating ourselves. We hate ourselves so much that we destroy our schools, libraries, depot, housing depot etc and all of this was made possible by the government using our own tax money.”

Earlier this month, the depot was once again vandalised, leading to a power outage on Hout Bay Harbour Road and the surrounding areas.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas confirmed that the depot construction remained incomplete and that they were forced to share resources with the Southern District.

“The ongoing targeting and damages to this depot by rioters in the Hangberg area has real costs for the community. Not in terms of finances, which taxpayers and ratepayers bear the brunt and burden of cost, but in terms of the same services so desperately needed by that community,” Mr Quintas said.

The depot’s setbacks mean the City is nowhere close to completing the building work at the site.

“We are no closer to having the necessary infrastructure and personnel nearby to implement our desired ongoing rollout of legal and safe electricity to residents, but also the presence required to manage outages and power failures, endured by the community due to illegal tampering and connections, and vandalism,” Mr Quintas said.

Meanwhile, Mr Lewis called on Hangberg to stand together in the fight for a better community for all, and said: “We don’t forgive. We keep focusing on the past instead of picking up the pieces and building afresh. The people must stand up against these handful of negative individuals.”

To report any persons suspected or criminally tampering with infrastructure, call 021 480 7700 or 107 from a landline.