Hangberg residents still in housing dispute

Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, left, and mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, exchange words with members of the community.

This week’s meeting to discuss housing in Hangberg descended into a series of shouting matches and was eventually abandoned as community members demanded answers from City officials on the future of the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) and perceived anomalies in plans for the Hangberg Informal Development Area (HiDA) project.

While a discussion on the PMF was a late addition to the agenda (“Wrangle over PMF”, Sentinel, October 6), this item was placed last.

Throughout the meeting, various community members referenced dissatisfaction with the organisation put in place to administer Hangberg’s affairs following the 2010 riots and subsequent signing of the Hangberg Peace Accord in 2011.
Monday night’s meeting at the Hangberg Sports and Recreation Centre was organised in response to last month’s violent protests, in which residents protesting housing, service delivery and allocation of fishing rights took to the streets, burning machinery and tyres and engaging in running battles with police.

The hall was packed with residents gathered to hear presentations from housing officials as well as the insights of Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, the City’s mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, and ward councillor, Roberto Quintas.

Also in attendance were Sub-council 16 chairperson Matthew Kempthorne and PR councillor Bheki Hadebe. While for the most part the earlier presentations on rental stock, arrears and ownership as well as maintenance were only intermittently interrupted, an update on the HiDA project by Riana Pretorius of the City’s informal settlements directorate escalated tensions.

The sale of land on Karbonkelberg to a private owner for R23 million in 2015 was a particular point of contention.
Recently, huge fencing has been erected on the mountain, clearly demarcating this property from the surrounds.

Community representative Lee Smith pointed out that the Peace Accord clearly stated that in the wake of the 2010 riots provision would be made to house the people of Hangberg, yet the HiDA plan ignored the people living above Die Sloot area.

“There is now a fence the size of the Great Wall of China, yet you (City) can’t house these people. How can a property that has been sold for R23 million be developed, yet it has taken 12 years to develop the HiDA project?” he asked the officials.
Another community representative, Colin Delcarme, demanded that private land be given to the people, and questioned by what authority this land had been sold to a private buyer.

It was then that a perceived lack of leadership on the part of the PMF was raised.

Ms Little urged the audience to understand that she could only work within the law. As the constitution of the PMF was an order of the High Court, she did not have the requisite powers to intervene in the electoral processes of the organisation.

“You can dismantle that body, but you need to go to court in order to do it. But I have asked the attorneys who were involved (in the formation of the PMF constitution) to come to speak to you. I’ve brought you the attorneys’ names so you can consult with them. The PMF is a legal structure that you can change. You as a community must go to that attorney,” she said.
Audience members surrounded Ms Little, who was joined by Mr Plato, demanding that all active projects currently going through the PMF be stopped with immediate effect.

Animated back-and-forth exchanges between residents and the surrounded officials eventually saw the meeting abandoned.

PMF chairperson Jan Lewis, who was at the meeting, said it needed to be understood that it was always the “same group”
who caused the commotion and called for the disbanding of the PMF.

“One of this group has a problem with me from as far back as 2010. In fact he made a case against me and other PMF supporters, accusing us of intimidation. These were all false cases,” he said.

“He claimed he was hit with a pole at a meeting, and he was encouraged by his supporters to include me in his complaint to the police. But I wasn’t even at that meeting. The case was thrown out before it even went to court.”

He said the PMF was not elected by the community as a whole, but by the various residential blocks. “It is the older people who elected us. These people calling for the PMF to be broken apart are the youth who break the law. They are then joined by people with their own political agendas. Every time a development must happen, there is a commotion. They say they don’t want the City to deal with us anymore, but these people do not understand that in terms of the High Court order we are the representative body. We are partners with the City, but they do not have authority over us.”

Mr Lewis said after the events of Monday, it was clear that large public meetings hampered developments from moving forward.

“We used to have block meetings, where you could separate these disruptive elements. We must do this again so we can get things done.”

Earlier, it was revealed that Hangberg’s 60 row-type houses are now on their own erven, and been supplied with electricity and water. A request for each unit to have its own bathroom was also approved.

There was some concern among audience members that local labour was not being used in the development of housing projects. It was explained that contractors were tendered to service the whole of Cape Town, and that the City did not have a tender for Hangberg alone. As such, labourers were drawn from all over area north to work on projects.