Residents demand answers

Cape Town-120715-residents of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay start to rebuild after about 70 homes were destroyed by a fire last night. One person died. Reporter Bheki Dungeni. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Residents from Imizamo Yethu’s Dontse Yakhe section took to the streets last Friday, April 26, in a protest over “lack of communication from City bosses”.

Demonstrators, accompanied by police and traffic officials, walked from the settlement to Hout Bay library and demanded to meet with the ward councillor.

They claimed the City attempted to break down their homes the previous day.

“We had no choice but to demand a meeting with councillor Roberto Quintas. The City was about to demolish our shacks without giving us warning. People are angry and scared,” said Mzu May, vice-chairperson of the Imizamo Yethu Informal Settlement Block Committee Council (IYSBCC) who led the protest.

Members of Dontse Yakhe currently occupy the land which was ravaged by a fire in 2017.

According to Mr May, residents who occupied the land prior to the fire, and who now live in temporary housing, are trying to take back their land.

“People from the Disa and Depot TRAs (temporary relocation areas) came to point out our houses in order to break them down. We were very surprised that the IYSBCC leadership wasn’t informed about this, since we’ve been working together with the City all this time.”

Mr May said they don’t necessarily have any issues with the ward councillor, but if the “City is going around breaking down peoples’ homes they have to be informed”.

He said if needed residents will retaliate. “We will have to fight back, but we don’t want to fight, we just want to be informed. Mr Quintas said he didn’t know about what happened on Thursday, but he apologised and assured residents it wouldn’t happen again.”

After those displaced in the 2017 fire were moved to TRAs, the IYSBCC decided that open piece of City-owned land should be occupied.

“The TRA people were renting out the land, so we told those who wanted to build shacks to go ahead,” said Mr May.

“IYSBCC told these residents it would be temporary, and that the Depot and Disa people would come back to their area once the City built them homes there. Our idea was that then, the Dontse Yakhe people would move to the TRA’s – especially when the City starts building roads, because we will be displaced. But this is still undecided.”

After the protest Mr Quintas, said the IYSBCC was invited to meet with the mayor’s office on two separate occasions, but they never arrived to these meetings.

He also said the issue of the Dontse Yakhe residents resisting evacuation is still before the court, and no one will be evicted unless the judge deems it so.

Later that Friday when all seemed settled, the Dontse Yakhe protesters marched to Hout Bay’s Unesco Heritage site adjacent to Hugheden. Here they staked out plots with pegs for new homes, should they be evicted. According to Mr May, they “went to see and clean the area, nothing happened yet”.

Mr Quintas, however, said these residents were conducting a “land grab”, and that the city is considering pressing trespassing charges.

“Community members of Imizamo Yethu began to demarcate plots on this ecologically sensitive and internationally protected section of the Table Mountain National Park, which boasts extremely rare and vulnerable species of the Cape Floral Kingdom. This illegal land grab cannot be condoned and despite the understanding of housing needs, uncontrolled establishment of informal settlements doesn’t help with bringing services and dignity to people – in this case it directly impacts a biodiversity landmark.”

Mr Quintas also said City services continue to monitor the site, and that the had City “obtained a High Court interdict which will allow for the demolition of any structures being built on this site and the arrest of any persons attempting to build there”.