Protests a threat again

Protest action is “imminent” after a zero-hour meeting, called to avert tensions in Hangberg, collapsed this week.

Concerned residents walked out of a meeting with the City of Cape Town on Monday, believing officials are not adequately addressing their concerns. These grievances came to the fore after last year’s riots in Hangberg.

Following the violent protests that erupted over housing, service delivery and fishing rights in September, a tentative peace agreement was reached with the intervention of Western Cape Safety MEC, Dan Plato.

In the wake of this intervention, a series of meetings were held between City officials and the community, primarily over unhappiness with the make-up of the existing Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), service delivery and failure to get the Hangberg Informal Development Area (HiDA) project off the ground.

While angers appeared to subside over the festive period, they have subsequently re-emerged in Hangberg.

According to concerned resident Lee Smith, who has been engaging with the City on behalf of residents, the City had “ceased any and all dialogue” with the people of Hangberg.

“We first attempted to raise these issues with the Hangberg PMF, but they refused, saying they did not want to be bullied into a meeting with us. They informed us that they were the only legal representative body in Hangberg, and as such, a group of concerned residents felt we had no other option than to approach the City ourselves,” Mr Smith said.

The purpose, he said, was to avoid a repeat of last year’s violent protests because frustrations were boiling over in the community.

A meeting was scheduled at the Civic Centre on February 6. During this meeting, the concerned residents explained that the situation was volatile, and asked City representatives, mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond and Hout Bay ward councillor Roberto Quintas why progress had not been made on solving the issues.

“When they failed to adequately answer our questions, we gave them 14 days to come back with proper answers, and we eventually agreed to meet this Monday, February 26.”

Mr Diamond, he said, agreed to look at the Hangberg Peace Accord in particular. There is a sense among the community that the accord, signed in the wake of the 2010 Hangberg riots resulting from Metro police tearing down homes, had been violated in that it stipulated Hangberg residents should be provided land, but subsequently the land had been sold to private buyers.

“This community is sick and tired of getting half-answers. They don’t expect houses to be built tomorrow, but they do want clear, concise answers.”

The residents’ group has also taken issue with the City’s mayoral committee for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, for not attending any of the arranged meetings. They regard him as key to negotiations.

All mayoral committee members, including mayoral committee member for informal settlements Xanthea Limberg, were requested to attend the meeting on Monday February 26 as a matter of urgency, but according to Mr Smith, only Ms Little, Mr Diamond and Mr Quintas were present.

“It was immediately clear that the City had done no work whatsoever on giving us proper answers on housing, the HiDA and the Peace Accord. They spent an hour fencing with us, and that was when we decided to walk out,” he said.

“We have now told the City in no uncertain terms that unless they address the situation, there will be protests. There will be no Cape Town Cycle Tour or marathon coming through Hout Bay.”

A meeting giving feedback to the community was held on Tuesday February 27.

“There is a large call for protest action, but it was agreed this would be done in a peaceful way. The community believes it cannot sit back and watch the City do what it wants.

“It is also now time to put an urgent application through the High Court to change the terms of the Hangberg Peace Accord because for seven years it has not been adhered to. The reason we have been negotiating with the City is because of a lack of feedback from the PMF, and now these negotiations have failed as well. We are not being taken seriously, but people need to know that we are going out of our way to prevent riots from breaking out again.”

Mr Herron denied that he had “fobbed off” the community.

“I want to state upfront that prior to the councillors’ meeting with the Hangberg community on February 26, I have provided Mr Quintas with three reports about TDA-related projects in Hout Bay dated October 9 2017, February 5 2018, and February 20 2018. These reports set out the latest details about each project at the time, and were submitted to Mr Quintas with the objective of assisting him with the latest information the community may require during the meetings,” he said.

He had also indicated to Mr Quintas that he was unavailable to attend Monday’s meeting as he had a prior commitment. In addition, he had provided Mr Smith his reasons for not attending meetings as well as the reports on the TDA-related projects.

He said the second phase of the ongoing Hangberg housing project would commence in the latter part of this year.

“This development will commence on two sites in Hangberg. These sites are expected to provide between 300 to 450 units, depending on the final design, and will be allocated to beneficiaries who are registered on the City’s housing database, and in accordance with the City’s housing allocation policy.”

“A tender was advertised for professional services, and once appointed the contractor(s) will undertake all planning work and engineering designs for the project. The tender for this project served at the City’s bid adjudication committee early in February, and is now undergoing the required appeal period, and Section 33 process.”

He stressed that all City contracts in place for longer than three years required council approval before the signing of the contract could go ahead.

Ms Limberg said she had met with the Hangberg community towards the end of the year, along with Mr Quintas and Ms Little.

“I presented the plans for the HiDA, and I explained the challenge around land transfers with SANParks which is delaying the project from moving ahead. The City’s informal settlements department has finalised the land use applications. However, the department is unable to submit these because the land in question where the existing informal area is located, and which the City intends to upgrade, belongs to the national Department of Public Works and it is managed by SANParks,” she said.

She said the situation was far more complex than it appeared as SANParks had requested the City transfer other City-owned land as per a historic agreement before the formal transfer of the Hangberg land could take place.

She, too, said she had to attend prior engagements on Monday and earlier in February, but she had ensured a community liaison attended meetings on her behalf.

Mr Diamond said he had undertaken to investigate whether the Peace Accord addressed a question related to private land transactions. However, he said he did not have the opportunity to respond to the community as they walked out of the meeting before the matter could be discussed.

Jan Lewis, chairperson of the PMF, said he was aware of the meetings between the City and the residents’ group.

“The PMF is not the gatekeeper of the community. People are free to meet with the City if they want to. We as the PMF will always welcome any ideas from the community, but what we don’t want are opportunists pushing their own agendas as individuals or for their companies,” he said. “In this process, the Rastafarian community (of Hangberg) has been side-lined, so we also need to push for the Rastas to become a registered entity. The PMF is there to help all the people of the community, but every decision we make is a legal decision within the framework of the Peace Accord.”

He said as long as residents could make a positive change in the community, they were welcome to do so. “We as a community won’t always agree, but we can agree to come to a central point to move the community forward. What we have been seeing are people in the community only wanting to do things for themselves.”