Residents rise for land and liberation

While the political movement Black First Land First (BLF) was not “front and centre” of the housing protests which brought Hout Bay to a standstill this week, the organisation believes the uprising is a sign Imizamo Yethu residents are beginning to liberate themselves from oppression.

Disgruntlement over the temporary relocation area at the Hout Bay sports complex has been cited at the primary reason for the protests, but in the days that followed the initial action on Saturday July 1, some local leaders demanded they be given land and expressed the view that Imizamo Yethu residents were being persecuted by “white ratepayers”.

On Monday, as cars were torched, trees cut down and businesses looted amid the chaos, necessitating the intervention of the Public Order Policing unit and other law enforcement agencies for a third day running, IY Movement chairperson Mkhululi Ndude addressed the 500 protesters, telling them that they would “occupy every piece of land, including the sea”.

“It is time to make history. You need your land,” he said to cheers outside the Hout Bay police station. Mr Ndude was later arrested for allegedly failing to co-operate with the po-
lice.

Mr Ndude’s words were reminiscent of past utterances by BLF and in particular, those of president Andile Mngxitama. At the organisation’s first national imbizo in May, Mr Mngxitama was reported as saying: “The land underground, the oceans and the skies belong to us. Our poverty, the balance in the townships, in the squatter camps, in the rural villages, is caused by our landlessness.”

Mr Ndude said the IY Movement was not a political party, but would be willing to work with parties like the EFF and BLF to send a message to the people that they needed land.

While BLF national spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp said BLF had not instructed anyone to protest, the organisation had been “conscientising” people in Imizamo Yethu to be aware of their struggle for land and liberation.

“After the fire, we took some of our members from UCT to Imizamo Yethu so they could deliver non-perishable foods and other goods to the fire victims. People have their own agency, but I think the protests showed that our message is beginning to resonate. For too long black
people have felt they are not being accepted by the white community,” he said.

BLF had between 70 and 100 members in Imizamo Yethu, and support was growing rapidly, Mr Maasdorp said.

“We have two goals in respect of IY. The short-term goal is to conscientise residents and forge a situation where they can have greater access to resources. The long-term goal is to expose the mandate of the City, which ultimately is to move black people out of Imizamo Yethu into places like Blikkiesdorp,” he said.

“What we would like to find out is how many white people from Johannesburg have settled in Hout Bay and other affluent areas in Cape Town? We would like to commission a study on this. The results would be very interesting.”

Asked whether there had been opportunistic elements who had capitalised on the genuine concerns of the residents living on the sports field, he said: “Every protest will be opportunistic. You always need to ask who stands to gain.”

Even so, he said, these elements would not have made the protests any less legitimate.

Len Swimmer, chairperson of the Hout Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, described the protests as “ludicrous and unnecessary”.

“We have always wanted Imizamo Yethu to become a fully-fledged suburb of Hout Bay, but the reality is the number of people have become too many for the area.

“We don’t have the necessary infrastructure and the sewerage, water and electricity capacity to support everyone,” he said.

“People must be relocated out of Hout Bay to areas like Constantia, Bergvliet, Tokai and Meadowridge, where they will also have greater access to jobs.”

He said if Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille was serious about reversing apartheid spatial planning, relocation of people to these areas would suit this purpose perfectly.

The protests abated late on Monday afternoon when Ms De Lille eventually addressed a crowd of more than a 1 000 people. After hearing the grievances of Imizamo Yethu’s leadership, she consulted with the City’s executive management who are working on plans for the area.

“Together with the community leadership we agreed that we are going to accelerate re-blocking across three areas – Madiba Square, the Shooting Range
site and Dontse Yakhe. We will work in all three areas at the same time,” Ms De Lille said on Tuesday.

“We are assigning a new programmemanagementteam to facilitate and oversee all line departments in the area.”

As the protests reached fever-pitch, a group of protesters went on the rampage around Hout Bay. Vehicles were set alight and trees were cut down on Victoria Road, while in Penzance, a group of about 50 protesters marauded through the suburb, overturning vehicles and attempting to invade homes.

A wall at the Domestic Animal Rescue Group was also pushed over.

Residents being accommodated at the sports field said while they were surprised at the levels of violence they had seen during the protests, they were not surprised they had occurred.

“People have been living in shocking conditions for too long. The water comes in and it’s cold, and our kids are getting sick all the time. It couldn’t go on like this,” one man said.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said while the cost of repairing the damage caused during the protests, was still to be established, it was likely to be “big”.

“I have requested the urgent repair of the traffic lights at the
Victoria intersection, and I have asked for cleansing of the Main Road circle adjacent to the police station as well as the Valley Road circle and Victoria intersection,” he said.

“I have also requested that the parks department look into replacing the trees felled along Victoria and Main and believed that there are adult trees available to replace those damaged in the protest.”

He had also asked the City’s safety and social services directorate to provide feedback on possible trauma counselling for the residents of Hout Bay, inclu-
ding those of Imizamo Yethu, Kronendal Retirement Village, Penzance and Hughenden Estates and any other member of the community who were exposed to violence.

HoutBaypolicespokes-
person Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch had not responded to queries by the time this edition went to print.