Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum’s (PMF) decision to snub a high-level meeting, held to iron out simmering grievances in the harbour community, has drawn flak from a group calling itself the “Concerned Residents”.
The group from Hangberg has met several times with the City of Cape Town since the start of the year about housing, service delivery, access to land and the PMF’s composition.
It says the PMF has betrayed the Hangberg Peace Accord – a peace deal struck with the City in the wake of the 2010 riots. Made an order of the high court in October 2011, it holds the City to making key improvements in Hangberg over time.
But the PMF denies it has abandoned the accord and claims the Concerned Residents group is threatening the peace process.
The meeting at the Cape Town Civic Centre on Thursday May 24 was meant to involve the City, provincial government, SANParks, the Concerned Residents and the PFM.
But the Concerned Residents group is fuming after the PMF, along with SANParks failed to pitch. And it says Province’s representative wasn’t high ranking enough and area north Mayco member Suzette Little was the only mayoral committee member present.
The absence of key “decision makers” has scuppered previous meetings.
SANParks’ involvement is seen as vital because of its control over contested land in Hangberg.
On May 21, three days before last week’s meeting, PMF chairman Jan Lewis emailed City official Richard Kock saying the PMF would not be part of a “political meeting”.
In the email, which the Sentinel has seen, he says the PMF “cannot entertain lawlessness” or meet with “negative individuals who want to derail the peace process”.
The PMF had already explained “changes of PMF members and services” at a meeting in August last year and “will not come to repeat ourselves”, and if the Concerned Residents had a problem, they should speak to Ward 74 councillor Rob Quintas.
He said there were structures to deal with “individuals’ concerns” but any threat to the peace accord itself should involve high-level discussions with the mayor of Cape Town, the premier of the province, the CEO of SANParks and the PMF.
“The PMF is not a servant of the government; we are equal partners.”
Concerned Residents group representative, Lee Smith, said that in light of the PMF’s decision, City officials at last week’s meeting had proposed returning the peace accord to the high court for review.
“Because of this refusal, stakeholders, of which the City is one, would not be in a position to review AGMs and who is elected to the PMF. I got a sense that the City was finally wanting to get themselves in line with the peace accord,” Mr Smith said.
But in an interview with the Sentinel, Mr Lewis reiterated what he had said in his email and added a review of the high court order would need to be agreed to by all parties.
“I heard two months ago the Concerned Residents group were talking about the peace accord being reviewed by the courts. But the peace accord is not a one-sided agreement.”
On Monday, the Sentinel asked the City if it would seek a high court review of the accord, but spokeswoman Jean-Marie de Waal couldn’t get relevant officials to answer our emailed questions by the time this edition went to print.
“The City will respond in the next edition,” she said.
Mr Quintas attended last week’s meeting but drew fire from the Concerned Residents group. It accused him of “pushing the agenda” of the PMF and losing the trust of residents.
The councillor told the Sentinel he had refused to leave the meeting as he had a responsibility to his Ward 74 constituents, “including the vast majority of Hangberg residents”.
Also, unless there were changes to the high court order, he was legally bound to work with the PMF. “However, this has never stopped me from meeting and often assisting the Concerned Resident group, among many other Hangberg entities.”
Meanwhile, Mr Smith said the Concerned Residents group had also been unhappy to learn from City officials that zoning issues had delayed construction by two years on the two sites that had been earmarked for housing by mayor Patricia de Lille at a meeting in
“I asked why they couldn’t fast-track this zoning, because they apparently had no problem re-zoning land to build the Word Cup stadium before 2010,” said Mr Smith.
He said the officials had also spoken about upgrading the HiDA (Hangberg Improvement Development Area) in October, “but they haven’t even completed the database of the residents who will be affected by the project”.
He added: “The general consensus in the community is that the City hasn’t done a thing. The City has shown again it does not take Hangberg and its community seriously.”