More protests in Hangberg

The eco tree built by the Meraki Bay organisation was burnt during the latest protest.

Violence erupted in Hangberg last week when a handful of residents protested the demolition of a half-built illegal structure by authorities.

A tree built from eco bricks at Sentinel Primary School was burnt down while boats, cars and road infrastructure were also damaged.

The protests started when the City of Cape Town’s Anti Land Invasion and Informal Settlements Unit, joined by other law enforcement authorities, broke down the structure on Wednesday September 23.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said the builders of this structure had been warned.

“The builders of this structure have received warnings, and notices and are illegally invading and building on land which has a moratorium over it regarding any further building taking place,” he said, noting that this ruling was made in a High Court judgment earlier this year.

He added that the builders had been laying a concrete foundation when they had been stopped by the unit.

During the last round of protests in June, cars were also set alight, and residents clashed with police, but the burning of the Little Angels Creche took centre stage.

Several of the food packs meant for the community and donations were inside the creche at the time it was torched.

This time, creche owner Liezel Matthews said she was prepared for anything: “I am willing to protect my creche and we won’t go through another episode like the last time. If they think they are going to destroy my creche again, they have another think coming.”

Ms Matthews said she was preparing to officially reopen the creche next week and already started feeding the community from the creche.

Last week’s protest saw debris blocking main routes into the area, with road infrastructure also being damaged.

“Funding could have been used for other road improvements in the area. Essential services will not attend to burst pipes, waste or sewage issues until such time as calm and order are restored,” Mr Quintas said.

The eco brick tree at Sentinel Primary School was built last year by an international organisation, Meraki Bay, which works in poor communities around the world.

Meraki Bay is run by Spanish-born Borja Cortés Martínez, who moved to South Africa and stayed in Hout Bay for a year.

Mr Martinez was deeply saddened, but said the incident had restored new hope in the group, which is planning to revisit Cape Town and the school to rebuild the eco tree.

“There is sad news that turns into opportunities, and that is how we take it in Meraki Bay. We know where we work and the collateral damage our organisation can suffer. The tree burns because it is something material. Our principles and our passion for what we do will be something that can never be burned. It is intangible,”

Mr Martinez said all the way from his Madrid home.

He confirmed that talks were already under way to construct a new tree, only this time they saw an opportunity to build and even bigger tree, using more eco bricks.

“That is why we adopt the word resilience to see in the ashes of this event a new opportunity to create a new icon that we are still here to contribute, help and build a better community,” he said.

Sentinel News approached Sentinel Primary School for comment, but they failed to respond at the time of going to print.

The latest attack on the school has left locals fuming.

Shaakirah Richards has two children attending Sentinel Primary and said “a handful” of residents were responsible and claim they are fighting on behalf of the Hangberg community.

“It must always be such extreme violence. My children walk to school every morning, and it’s sickening to hear such stories.

These idiots don’t care; they turn around and say that they are fighting for everybody and standing up for us,” she said.

“When you go onto school property, destroy things that are supposed to uplift our community, how can that be standing up for us?”

Another resident, Jermaine Diedericks, said he was disturbed to see most of the culprits were children, being encouraged by some adults.

“You see the guys sitting on the corner screaming at the kids, ‘Throw them! Throw them!’ These kids do not understand the extent of what they are busy with, and they are laughing having a ball, while this is very serious as the police have guns.”

He said watching the children join in on destroying school property was like “watching children destroy their own futures”.

“If other people see this, they will start questioning why they need to assist this community if the children are also part of the problem. Our people must really start to think. This violence is just adding more court cases, and it’s not resolving anything,” Mr Diedericks said.

Meanwhile, the City said they have an obligation to prevent further encroachment on that site as it is already difficult to access necessary services.

“It’s also due to the fact that the dangerous and illegal excavation into the sand dune not only caused damages to the foundations of the formal houses above, but could result in landslides and loss of life and damages of property for both those above and below,” Mr Quintas said.

“The rule of law must run its course, and we cannot allow a handful of violent thugs, protecting the actions of those who act with impunity before the law to become a ‘new normal’ that is simply accepted by law-abiding citizens.”