Hangberg residents demand answers

Residents carried banners addressing land issues as they marched to the Hout Bay police station.

There was “disappointment” that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa did not send a representative to receive a memorandum of grievances from a group of Hangberg residents who marched to the Hout Bay police station on Sunday March 4.

The group, which numbered about 50 people including children, presented the memorandum to the City’s mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little.

Among their grievances was the alleged failure of the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum to represent the community and its interests; the formalisation of the Hangberg Development Forum; the land issue in the Hangberg Informal Development Area (HiDA) project and planned housing.

Community activist Roscoe Jacobs said the presidency was informed of the march and its purpose, yet did not send a representative.

“It makes one question the land transformation agenda which has been central to the president’s speeches and promise of a “New Dawn”. Is this merely rhetoric? Land is needed for decent human settlements and not just for farming. We will engage the presidency further on this matter as it’s an urgent matter. We cannot wait any longer for the realisation of land ownership of people who were once forcefully removed during apartheid,” Mr Jacobs said.

Those who took part in the march have accused ward councillor Roberto Quintas of threatening those who participated with arrest.

Mr Jacobs said Mr Quintas claimed prior to the march that the community would target tourists.

He said Mr Quintas was also using the challenges of the local CPF to “cover up his failure and promote fear-mongering to gain support to criminalise our struggle for land and decent housing”.

The community was leaked a WhatsApp message between Mr Quintas and Hout Bay security agencies.

However, Mr Quintas has denied sending an “email”, as was allegedly being told to the community, calling for community members to be arrested.

“Firstly, I didn’t send an email but forwarded a WhatsApp received by an informant in Hangberg to SAPS, City Law Enforcement and to our heads for safety and security, warning them of the possibility of violent protest,” he said.

“I have an obligation to alert these structures of any potential threat to public safety, and considering the last attacks on the Hout Bay Market and at Mariner’s Wharf toward the end of last year, I took the possible threat extremely seriously. I also shared this threat as received by me with the secretary of the CPF, and asked her to alert SAPS through her structure as well.”

In addition, he said, the information was sent in “inverted commas” as he was not the author of the information. “I performed my duty in alerting safety and security structures of the possible threat, exactly as I received it: verbatim.

“I cannot take out information received or edit such information in case I take out something material and am later accused of protecting someone or sending skewed information.”

He said the private and offline non-public communication was sent to protest leaders by an unknown source, and as a result “I’m being blamed for alerting safety structures of possible violent protest, by sharing this threat directly from an informant in Hangberg. I also told protest leaders the same as above by means of explanation.”

He said he told the leaders that he would never curtail their constitutional right to protest. “I do not have any such powers, but at the same time, I have to take all necessary steps to prevent people having their rights infringed, in terms of intimidation as seen before, freedom of movement, as seen before with burning tires preventing public access, and damage to public and private property. I cannot apologise for doing what I believe is my duty: to alert the relevant safety and security structures with what I believed to be a real threat to public safety.”

He said he would have to consider investigations on how privileged information was leaked.

PMF chairperson Jan Lewis said there was a need for the community to come together as access to housing had been a long-standing issue in Hangberg.

“During the march I saw a lot of banners about land reform, but also some people wearing political T-shirts. We don’t agree that a march about community issues should be politicised. We also saw a number of children on the march, but we would exercise caution when it comes to that, because we saw what happened when a child was shot during the protests last year,” he said. “I do understand people’s frustrations about housing, and there is a need to march, but it needs to be done in the right way.”