Service delivery, land protest brings Harbour Road to standstill

A protest over land and service delivery issues continued in Harbour Road, Hout Bay, on Friday afternoon.

Burning tyres and branches were strewn across the road, blocking traffic from both sides. The protesters, who mainly reside in Die Sloot area, are complaining that they are not being provided with sanitation, electricity and proper shelter.

A large police presence was on the scene, with a nyala sporadically dowsing the flames in the road. At one point, members of the Public Order Policing unit used a stun grenade to disperse a small group of protesters who were burning branches on a nearby section of beach.

Protesters quickly descended on this area, demanding to know why police had taken such a measure. The situation threatened to escalate, but was diffused shortly thereafter.

A decision was taken to close the Bay Harbour Market for Friday trading due to the protests.

According to one of the protesters, Brett Nicholas, their demands had been raised at a meeting of key stakeholders, including the Peace and Mediation Forum, Hangberg civic association and housing representatives from the HiDA project.

“The main issue we have now are the services and the land. The leaders we have now, people like (ward councillor) Rob Quintas and the people who are involved with them like the PMF, they actually do stuff on behalf of people without consulting them,” Mr Nicholas said.

“For me they do things in private, and at the end stuff like this happens. The PMF has problems with some families, and then court orders are made against people erecting structures and the police come in. The real issues that affect people are not being addressed.”

He said the political issues between the DA and the ANC were causing problems.

“Ever since 1996 when Mandela came out and he talked about the five millions houses that had to be built, this land issue is still here. But this kind of issue, we don’t have any leaders who can solve it. All we are seeing is political campaigning.

“What they are actually doing is making use of the people’s poverty to them under their wing. But at the moment we are not benefiting from job creation, RDP housing, educational skills to eradicate people permanently.”

He said protests were the only way to get attention to raise these issues.

“Sometimes this is what we have to do. If the leaders consulted people on a regular basis, things like this could be avoided. If you look at Mandela Park, fires are always occurring there because people are living on top of each other because there is no land. We need the land as well. We need equal rights, and justice must prevail.”

Mr Nicholas said protesters wanted to be given time frames by the City as to when their issues would be addressed.

“We have the same issues as the people of Mandela Park, and we need these to be sorted out. All the people of Hout Bay must come together to solve these issues.”
PMF chairperson Jan Lewis said while the forum understood the demands for housing and land, the situation had been “hijacked”.

“We had a meeting last night (Thursday) when all these issues were raised, and we agreed that we would hold a march in which a memorandum would be handed over to the mayor. We were going to the police station on Monday to get the necessary permits,” he said.

“But what happened is a lady here in Hangberg who is renting out shacks in Die Sloot illegally. She has a personal grudge against me because I have called her out on this. She is the one behind these protests. She has a grudge with me. It is the same situation in IY, where landlords are looking after their turf.”

He said because of the actions of this faction, he now was questioning whether the march would go ahead.

“This is about landlords protecting their property.”

Mr Quintas said the issues being raised by the protesters were addressed at a public meeting in Hangberg 10 days ago.

“The City’s Transport and Urban Development department as well as the informal settlements department said they would hold two separate public meetings in Hangberg to propose future plans for the area so that people can have an understanding of where we’re at and our vision for the way forward,” he said.

“This was agreed on by the community, so the protest today does come as a surprise since people know these meetings are imminent. We understand that some of the community feel they are not being holistically represented by the Peace and Mediation Forum and being left out of decision-making processes. This is something I will address further with the mayor and other stakeholders.”

Mr Quintas had advised that the Bay Harbour Market be closed on Friday, and possibly the weekend.

“This is unfortunate as many people from Hangberg rely on the market for their wages.”

Hout Bay Civic Association secretary Roscoe Jacobs said since 2007 promises had been made to residents in terms of the HiDA ousing project but 10 years later no progress had been made.

“People living over Die Sloot are wanting services. To our understanding City is the owner of the land and so services can be provided. The issue is also the PMF and the manner in which they represent the community. The PMF don’t hold meetinmgs with the community before they go into meetings with the mayor and they don’t come back to report back on what is happening.

“The same process is not being followed as in IY, because in IY that is happening.”