New Hangberg forum to tackle community issues

The Hangberg United Front forum are, from left, Willem Stevens, Maria Ann Brown, Theresa Abrahams and Marilyn Brown.

A group of Hangberg residents has formed a forum affiliated to the United Front political party in an effort to address ongoing problems in the community.

The Hangberg United Front forum was launched on October 28, and has selected Maria Ann Brown as its co-ordinator, Willem Stevens as deputy chairperson, Marilyn Brown as secretary and Theresa Abrahams as co-ordinator of the women’s forum.

“We have come together because we have quite a lot of struggles in Hangberg, including service delivery and housing, drugs and issues with our current leadership,” Maria Ann Brown said.

“Although we are affiliated to the United Front, as a forum we are non-political. For many of us, we have grown up with these problems, and while we have sought answers from other organisations, we have never found solutions. Everywhere we went we hit a wall. We believe this forum can have a role in finding solutions to our struggles.”

Mr Stevens said national, provincial and local government had failed to be accountable to the people of Hangberg. “We will be mobilising the masses because we want to be emancipated from economic slavery. At the same time, we will be placing our focus on women’s and youth issues. We will be striving to educate and train our youth.”

Ms Brown said the City of Cape Town had made “so many promises” to the Hangberg community, yet the people were still waiting for answers.

“We are still waiting for the HiDA (Hangberg Informal Development Area) to get off the ground. The City is selling land on the mountain to private owners, yet our people are still waiting for housing. We have had so many fires in Hangberg, but if people lived in formal houses with access to proper electricity we could have avoided many of these incidents,” she said.

This year, a number of Hangberg residents have questioned the governing Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), calling for the current body to stand down so that new leadership can be elected.

“Their (current leadership) term ended in March 2016. Since then there haven’t been any meetings to elect new leadership. They do not have the mandate of the people. We want to know why the City is not scrutinising them, and continues to work only with them.

“This year, we’ve had riots because the people are unhappy. So if the people are satisfied, there will be no reason for riots. The City needs to change its mindset if it wants peace,” Ms Brown said.

Another issue the forum would be addressing is the so-called “illegals” residing in Hangberg.

“For as long as I can remember, we’ve always had squatters in Hangberg. These people have always been here, so why are they now being told they are illegal,” she said.

“I personally have had to move many times. They moved us from the Disa area, then moved us to Die Krans, then to Texas. Every time we have to be moved and we have done it, yet they call us illegals when we are from here. It is unacceptable.”

The United Front has strong ties to the unions, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), and the forum hopes to tap into those connections to mobilise going forward.

It will also be calling on People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) to deliver a series of youth talks in Hangberg to warn young people about the dangers of drug use.

“This relationship will be a spiritual one. We need to get our children away from drugs,” Ms Brown said.

She said the forum would be tackling each issue separately, beginning with service delivery and cleaning up the rubbish on the streets of Hangberg.

In her role, Ms Abrahams will be helping Hangberg’s women with hampers and taking youngsters out on camps. “I will also be looking at our local fishing industry and ways in which we can find employment opportunities for our people.”

PMF chairman, Jan Lewis said it could not stop people from forming forums and organisations if they wanted to.

“Our leaders have already been selected by the housing blocks, and we are still busy implementing our projects. The 60 row houses in Hangberg are in the process of being transferred and bathrooms installed,” he said.

“If there are other people who can do something for the community, then we welcome them. The thing is there are always people who have their own ways they want to run things.”

Mr Lewis said the PMF was “not here to fight”. The community wanted change, and the PMF would willing to meet any groups to discuss ways in which that change could happen.