Hangberg housing tussle

Tensions spilled over at a meeting in Hangberg this week as City officials faced a backlash from residents frustrated over housing and service delivery issues in the area.

The meeting on Tuesday September 5, was facilitated by ward councillor Roberto Quintas and addressed by mayoral committee member for area north Suzette Little and mayoral committee member for informal settlements, utilities and energy, Xanthea Limberg.

But it eventually had to be abandoned as a row between different residents brought proceedings to a halt.
In the past month, a group not affiliated to the controlling Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) has been engaging with residents and the City, believing that the PMF is not representing their interests adequately. This delegation comprises 16 members of the community.

Some residents say the City has also provided contradicting information in respect of housing and services to Hangberg.
Representatives of this group have met with Ms Little, and reported back to the residents on her suggestions, including the possibility of electing new members to the PMF as well as an option for residents to take full ownership of rental homes.

There was immediately dissatisfaction from some residents that the meeting at the Hangberg civic centre on Tuesday night was not to address these concerns, but would instead focus solely on the Hangberg Informal Development Area (HiDA) project.

Mr Quintas answered that a series of meetings to address rental stock, future housing and roads upgrades would be held later in the month.

One of the representatives of the delegation that had been meeting with Ms Little, Lee Smith, stated that the community had specifically tasked the delegation to come to the meeting, with the understanding that all issues would be addressed, not only the HiDA project.

However, Ms Little was adamant that she had told the delegation that the City required 21 days from their meeting on August 28 to consider their concerns and devise strategies to address them.

When the meeting’s focus eventually turned to the HiDA project, one of the major points of contention was over land that was owned by the City, and that was owned by SANParks and the national Department of Public Works.

In her presentation, Ms Limberg said the HiDA project made provision for 230 serviced sites.

The area would also include a main road and the implementation of water, sanitation and power.

The Hangberg Peace Accord, signed as an order of the high court following violent protests in September 2010, stated that 32 families currently living above Die Sloot area, were identified as legitimate beneficiaries and would be incorporated into the plan.

The HiDA project would have five phases, she said.

However, the first phase of the project was “problematic”, as land intended for the project belonged to SANParks. Other land belonged the the national Department of Public Works.

The City was still negotiating with these parties to take ownership of this land, which was causing delays to the project.

“Public Works say they don’t have an issue with us taking the land from SANParks, but SANParks says it can’t sign off on the land. However, there are meetings planned on this issue,” Ms Limberg said.

“We are committed to accelerating this project.”

During her presentation she also pointed out a section of land that belonged to a private entity. This raised the ire of some residents, who said the court order stated that SANParks and the City would do everything in their power to find land for residents, yet a section of land was in private hands.

Ms Little responded by saying that complaints over violations of the court order should not be addressed to the City, but the courts.

During the heated question-and-answer session that followed, Roscoe Jacobs, secretary of the Hout Bay Civic Association, questioned why the City was presenting a figure of 230 households for the HiDA area, claiming residents were previously told the project would benefit more than 300 people.

As Mr Jacobs suggested the City “go back and do its homework” on the myriad issues raised, a row broke out at the back of the civic centre between community members wanting the City to be allowed to carry out its objectives and those angry that residents were not being heard. It was at this point that the meeting was dissolved.

Interviewed earlier, Mr Smith told the Sentinel that in the meeting with Ms Little on August 28, the issue of removing so-called “illegal occupants” from the HiDA area was raised, but it was at that point that the delegation became adamant that no one would be removed.

According to Mr Smith, the Peace Accord stated that those residents living above Die Sloot in 2010 and who had not been in violation of a High Court order to remove illegal occupants would be granted a space to reside.

They would receive the spaces when beneficiaries living below Die Sloot were allocated a flat in one of the new housing developments in Hangberg.

Within this context, Mr Smith questioned how the City could remove people as it was a “violation of the Peace Accord”.

“We need the City of Cape Town to be forthcoming, we need the Western Cape government be forthcoming. Anything other than that, is going to send the community up in arms. The situation as it is is volatile. At some point in time the patience of the people is going to run out. The community is not looking at going to the streets, but the honesty needs to be forthcoming.”