Land grab raises ire in Hangberg

Jan Lewis, left, and Warren Abrahams, of the Peace and Mediation Forum.

Since November 2015, 70 new shacks have been erected illegally in Hangberg’s Sloot area, raising a myriad concerns for the community.

According to Jan Lewis, chairman of the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), the owners of these shacks are people who have not been able to build in Imizamo Yethu due to plans for more formal housing in the settlement.

“People are building new shacks on a weekly basis in the Sloot area. In the middle of the night, bakkies will arrive to deliver people’s belongings and the next thing you know a new shack has been erected,” he said.

“There are also individuals who sell or lease out the land that does not belong to them.

“The entire community is against xenophobia, but we need to report plots and places being sold to immigrants as this will prevent the Hangberg community from getting the necessary space for development.”

To this end, on Wednesday March 8, the PMF met with representatives from the City and SANParks as well as affected residents from the Sloot and Hangberg in situ Development Association (HiDA) areas to highlight the issue.

“We explained that we do not have the right to demolish shacks, but the building of these illegal structures was causing delays to the housing project in Hangberg,” Mr Lewis said.

“The good news is that the barrier line was reconfirmed by SANParks and the handover of this land from SANParks to the City will be finalised in the next few weeks. This step will enable the City to establish more services and start with the development upgrade of the HiDA area.”

The City and SANParks, he said, had also urged the community to report any new structures erected illegally.

“They made it clear that new structures going up will stop the HiDA residents from getting their upgrades and receiving their title deeds.”

Mr Lewis said the arrival of new people in Hangberg had brought a number of other problems.

“Our residents have complained that these people are rude and are constantly partying and drinking. We cannot allow projects that will benefit our community to be jeopardised in this way. Every time a new shack is erected it delays the whole process and we have to go back to the drawing board.

“I want to emphasise that we want to solve this situation peacefully, but we need it to be solved quickly. We cannot have a situation where the people of Hangberg are blamed for a housing crisis.”

However, in a response from the City, Xanthea Limberg, mayoral commitee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, said: “We are not aware of people from Imizamo Yethu erecting structures in this area, except for one instance which was observed during a walkabout.”

She said the City’s anti-land invasion unit was engaging with other partners to find solutions to the illegal activities in the Sloot area.

“The City has submitted a land-use application to develop the site and awaits the granting of either transfer of land or power of attorney over the land by SANParks. Once we have received this, we will be able to advertise the land-use application for public comment.

“The City’s anti-land invasion unit remains committed to preventing land invasions from undermining attempts to deliver housing, and is monitoring the area.”