A rash of robberies in the Hughenden area in the past fortnight has been blamed on broken palisade fencing around an area the City wants to use for emergency housing.
The so-called “triangle” site above the cemetery on Hout Bay Road has been a source of friction since the City proposed using it to house fire victims. Some locals say the site is unsafe, especially if there is a fire. As the City mulls the proposal, which has drawn objections, parts of the site’s fence have been torn down during housing protests. Residents say the gaps in the fence have created escape routes for robbers.
Piecing together accounts from both residents and the police, there appears to have been at least six robberies in the area in the past two weeks.
According to residents, a group of men robbed a family laying flowers in the cemetery on Sunday October 15, making off with jewellery and other valuables. There have, they say, also been three house robberies, and, last Friday, October 27, a resident was held up at the corner of the triangle site as he stopped his vehicle to answer a phone call.
Hout Bay police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch said only two robberies had been reported to the police: the October 27 incident involving the man whose phone was stolen – by two armed men, she notes – and another case, not mentioned by residents, that took place on the same day when four young men robbed two elderly people of their belongings.
Community representative Melissa Risi said residents were “deeply concerned” about the situation.
“We are appealing to the City to repair this fencing as soon as possible, because it is clear criminals are able to run through the site easily,” she said.
Recently, the City called residents of Hughenden Estate, which is near the triangle site, to a meeting in Constantia to discuss the possibility of them selling their homes to create space for additional housing for Imizamo Yethu residents.
However, most of the area’s 19 residents are opposed to selling their homes to the City.
According to Ms Risi, residents are worried the City is not relaying this message to Imizamo Yethu leaders, creating the expectation that the land will become available at a later stage.
The City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, has said that while expropriation is one of the legal options available to the City, it was not at the point of considering that.
This week, Mr Herron said the City had not made formal offers to Hughenden residents as yet.
“Therefore, any pronouncement on their willingness to sell or not is pure speculation at this stage. I can also state that no official message regarding the Hughenden land has been communicated to the IY leadership,” he said.
“We are currently engaging directly with each property owner with a view to acquiring their properties through purchase at fair market value. We are aware that many of the Hughenden properties are on the market, or have been on the market recently, and so we are hoping for a positive response. We can only determine a way forward at the end of the engagement process. No decision has been made as yet. The meeting with the owners of Hughenden on October 3 was only the first step in that process of engagement.”