The first pubic meeting of the newly-established Hout Bay Residents Forum was noted for heated exchanges over land and uncertainty over what the City is planning in terms of development.
The meeting at the Hout Bay library on Tuesday August 22 was called by the forum’s Brett Nussey to discuss the current situation in Hout Bay and get feedback from residents of Hout Bay’s respective communities.
Key stakeholders from Imizamo Yethu, Hangberg and the valley were among the audience members who packed the library hall.
After a brief presentation, Mr Nussey opened the floor for comments, and it quickly became apparent that land was high on the agenda.
Bronwyn Hodges, of One Hout Bay, said she had been attending meetings with Mayor Patricia de Lille and the City wanted to engage with the people of Hout Bay.
However, “a lot of parties from all sides have made promises”, and some members of the Imizamo Yethu community did not wish to share information because “they don’t know when the rules are going to change” in respect of the City’s plans.
She said government had to find new land for the residents of Hout Bay, and while the City’s plans were good, no timelines were being offered.
A recurring theme was that there were some residents who complained about looking for new land when it came to the underprivileged, but no one complained when land for private housing estates was sought.
A representative from Reclaim the City, Eddie Thompson, emphasised that people should be aware that the City council did not react unless the people raised the issue by way of protest action.
He added that Imizamo Yethu was currently the area in the spotlight but people should also not lose sight of Hangberg in respect of the land issue, as there was a desperate need for housing in this area as well.
Some residents argued that there simply was not enough land in Hout Bay, but Hangberg resident Lee Smith countered that he noticed every time the land issue was brought up people became upset.
In terms of the meeting, he asked: “Are we lying to ourselves if we say we want to include everyone?
“From Hangberg’s point of view, we need land. Everyone else in Hout Bay is living on mountains. Why can’t we?”
A point was also raised that residents at the meeting were discussing the future of Imizamo Yethu, yet those residents were not invited.
Mr Nussey answered that for the past month, he had been meeting with representatives from all Hout Bay’s communities.
Soon afterwards, a few members of the audience left the room, but Hout Bay resident and former Springbok and Canadian rugby international Christian Stewart implored residents to stay.
“If this (engagement) is going to work, we need people to stay,” he said.
Imizamo Yethu resident Siya Ndude then moved to the front of the room, saying he was “disappointed” he was perceived as a threat by some white residents.
“If you feel I am a threat, why do you leave me at your house 12 hours a day looking after your children and dogs.
“The same guys who break into your houses are the same guys who break into our houses,” he said in response to a comment that white people felt victimised by criminal elements.
Imizamo Yethu community leader Samkelo Krweqe used his time on the floor to say black and coloured people would not be leaving Hout Bay, and would explore land options as they wished.
One white resident said it was not a question of white people feeling fear; rather a course needed to be pursued where wealth could be created in the townships.
“We have to build something that is sustainable. We need to explore out-of-the-box options. What we are seeing is something (Imizamo Yethu) grow and grow but with no end in sight.”
One shared view was that crime impacted everyone in Hout Bay, something which was suggested should be a point of focus for the assembled group.
Imizamo Yethu Movement leader Mkhululi Ndude said the communities of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg wanted to work with residents of the valley, but feared older white people were not interested in building “one Hout Bay”.
“We are not here (at the meeting) to please anyone, we are here to build one Hout Bay. We need to get to the point that when you see a coloured or black person, you see a white person.”
Roscoe Jacobs, secretary of the Hout Bay Civic Association, suggested that white people frequently complained about the “influx” of people to Hout Bay, when in fact it was they who were bringing in people from other places to work for them.
“As South Africans, we have a right to freedom of movement. If people from the Eastern Cape come to Hout Bay, they have the right to do this.”
He also questioned the approach of the Hout Bay Residents’ Forum holding a public meeting as its inaugural gathering, suggesting Mr Nussey should have first engaged with community-based organisations.
Mr Smith added that he was concerned that if another residents’ association was formed, the strides that had been made with the City in terms of housing would be prolonged further.
Several members of the audience said they had no idea what was actually happening in Imizamo Yethu, but were invited to attend the Imizamo Yethu leadership forum briefings at the Hout Bay Sports Complex every Wednesday from 6pm.