The Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum’s annual general meeting (AGM) has been postponed indefinitely as the City of Cape Town seeks to address concerns over the make-up of the organisation.
The postponement is being viewed as a “significant” step by some residents who believe the PMF, formed in terms of the Hangberg Peace Accord following the 2010 riots, has not carried out its mandate and stonewalled community members who have taken issue with how it is managing affairs in Hangberg
Mounting pressure from a concerned residents’ group came to a head last Thursday, March 29, when about 50 residents gathered outside the Hangberg advice office where the PMF’s AGM was scheduled to be held. These residents demanded all residents be allowed to take part in the meeting and be part of the electoral processes.
At that point, the City’s mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, arrived in Hangberg to address the PMF, asking members not to go ahead with the AGM.
Mayor Patricia de Lille and mayoral committee members have held meetings with the concerned residents group in the past two months, focusing extensively on their concerns about the PMF, as well as the issues of housing and service delivery.
“I can confirm that I have visited the Hangberg area in response to the numerous requests made to the PMF to ensure that all community groups are included in their election process.”
I requested that the PMF postpone the meeting to make sure that more community organisations are invited to the AGM, as requested several times by the executive mayor and myself,” Ms Little said.
“The AGM was scheduled only for those members that had been selected. The City unfortunately continues to hosts two meetings for the same issues. When a meeting is held with the PMF, the concerned residents request a similar meeting. This has been going on for some time. Hence, the City has asked for all community organisations to be invited to participate in one meeting.”
She said her office had requested that all parties to the PMF be brought together so that the underlying issues could be established.
“This has not happened. We also requested that the City helps with the election process by issuing meeting notices and managing the record keeping so that communities do not hold the City to ransom for not being included in the PMF process.
“This was my request to the PMF, to which they agreed. We will be assisting them with the invitation process and keeping a record of who was invited to the election.”
Residents’ group spokesperson Lee Smith said Ms Little wanted to make sure that everything was being done according to the Peace Accord.
“She came and spoke to us, telling us that the PMF must plan the AGM in conjunction with us to make sure everything is above board. The PMF wants to do the AGM by invitation to members of the various block committees, but we believe ultimately it must be open to all.”
The PMF has now been invited to a high-level meeting with City officials, including the mayor, on Monday April 16. The concerned residents’ group, which will also be in attendance, has demanded that both SANParks and representatives of the Western Cape government be present at this meeting, as there has been much wrangling over land ownership in Hangberg and the surrounds.
PMF chairperson Jan Lewis confirmed the postponement.
“We agreed to postpone the meeting to prevent any further conflict. We were told we must get our paperwork ready for the meeting with the mayor and the premier (Helen Zille)”, he said.
“It is clear we can’t come together and talk as one, but at the end of the day it is the community that suffers. But we will talk to the two aunties (Ms De Lille and Ms Zille) and see how they feel, and take it from there. As the PMF, we do not come with a DA, ANC or Rasta agenda; we are there for the whole community.”
In the interim, he said, the PMF would continue to oversee the transfer of houses to new homeowners, and work with Hangberg’s block committees.
“We do want to hold the AGM as soon as possible,” Mr Lewis added.
Mr Smith said a petition calling for a vote of no confidence in the PMF was “well on its way” (“Petition calls for vote of no confidence in PMF”, Sentinel News, March 23.) The petition seeks to gather 5 100 signatures from Hangberg residents – half the number of people living in the area – which would also mandate lawyers to act on behalf of residents in future negotiations with the City. “We feel we are making headway to a certain degree with the City in terms of our grievances. Suzette Little is actively working to show good faith. However, we would like the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) to oversee the AGM process, rather than the City.
The PMF was initiated by the City, so we would have more of a guarantee of transparency if there was an independent body involved,” he said.
“Up until this point, the City has put nothing concrete on the table. At the April 16 meeting, there is no guarantee that SANParks and the Western Cape government will arrive.
“But this community wants results for all the outstanding things for which these governing structures are accountable.”