Hangberg meeting postponed

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency

A highly-anticipated meeting involving all roleplayers deemed key to finding permanent solutions to land, housing, service delivery and governance issues in Hangberg was postponed at the eleventh hour this week.

Hangberg has been on a knife-edge this year as residents demand answers on these issues, with a repeat of last year’s violent protests ever looming.

The City of Cape Town’s request to postpone the meeting, scheduled for Monday April 16, has left some feeling the City has “broad disdain” for Hangberg and its affairs.

The meeting was expected to involve City and provincial government officials, representatives from SANParks, the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) and members of the Hangberg Concerned Residents group.

The Concerned Residents group is especially aggrieved that the time frame for the April 16 meeting was outlined in a legal letter received by mayor Patricia de Lille at a meeting between the group and City officials last month, on Thursday March 15.

Email correspondence the Sentinel saw this week suggests the City “double-booked” the date of April 16 to address, at a public meeting, the participation of the community in the restructuring process of the PMF annual general meeting, which was postponed indefinitely on Thursday March 29.

Emails to this effect were sent to the PMF on Wednesday April 11. City officials and Concerned Residents representative Shanaaz Samaai were copied in on this mail.

In an email to City official Clinton Davids, dated Thursday April 12, Ms Samaai wrote that it seemed there had been “some sort of miscommunication and/or misunderstanding” regarding the agenda of the April 16 meeting.

“Councillor (Suzette) Little has committed to meeting with the Concerned Residents for a follow-up meeting in relation to the lawyer’s letter handed over in the meeting dated 15 March 2018.

“This meeting was to run concurrently with the mayor’s follow-up meeting which she committed to three weeks from said date,” Ms Samaai wrote.

The Concerned Residents believe Ms De Lille has also reneged on her commitment to meet with them following their first meeting in mid-March, since no communication in that regard, they said, had been received.

“The legal letter addressed and handed over to her has, to date, not received the attention it deserves. It comes as no surprise that the City does not stick to its commitments and evades responsibility. This will not deter us,” Ms Samaai wrote in an email to the City’s Roger Solomons on Saturday April 14.

The City says Ms De Lille has mandated Ms Little to facilitate and co-ordinate the engagements between the City and the Concerned Residents.

The legal letter received by Ms De Lille expresses grievances about the PMF and how the broader community has been excluded from its processes, alleges that the City, Western Cape government and SANParks have failed to follow through with stipulations of the Hangberg Peace Accord (signed after the Hangberg riots of 2010), and requests all stakeholders meet to plan the way forward for Hangberg.

On Monday, the day of the scheduled meeting, the City’s Richard Kock told the Concerned Residents it had been difficult getting all parties together for a meeting and proposed rescheduling to Monday April 30.

The Concerned Residents agreed to the postponement but on several conditions:

* The City acknowledges its failure to give due attention to the legal letter hand delivered to the mayor on March 15.

* The meeting has the delegates present who carry the capability to make decisions which are binding.

* Every agenda item will be dealt with and finalised in the meeting.

* If time constraints hamper the completion of the set of objectives, the meeting is reconvened no longer than 48 hours afterwards so the raised issues can be “put to bed”.

Concerned Residents member Lee Smith said it was “another total failure” on the part of the City to address the pressing concerns of Hangberg residents.

“In our meeting on March 15, the mayor boldly proclaimed that she deals directly with communities like IY (Imizamo Yethu), and would do the same for us. But then she delegates Suzette Little to deal with us,” Mr Smith said.

“This is not the first time this has happened. When we handed over a memorandum of grievances to Suzette Little at the Hout Bay police station on March 4 (“Hangberg residents demand answers,” Sentinel, March 9), she also failed to meet with us in the stipulated time frame. Now it’s happened again. It is a clear indication that the City doesn’t take our community seriously.” Mr Smith said every time good faith was established with the community, the City then “plays for more time”.

“At the end of the day, it means that a poor community like ours will spend another winter living in conditions that are below human dignity.”

Queries and a request for comment were sent by the Sentinel to the City on Tuesday. While Ms De Lille’s spokesperson Zara Nicholson acknowledged receipt of the email, she had not provided feedback by the time this edition went to print.