Fire victims occupy hall

The Hangberg community hall is now being occupied by families who were left homeless after a fire destroyed their homes last year.

The Hangberg community hall has been off limits for community use for just over a year now after four families turned the hall into their home.

Several families were left homeless when a fire swept down the mountain slopes in Salamander Road in October 2018.
The families were temporarily located at the call, while the City of Cape Town searched for vacant land in the area. 
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said land was eventually located at Oude Skip and most of the families moved to the location and started rebuilding their lives.
“We worked very closely with the families and the City did all they could. All the families decided to move, but there were two families who stood their ground and chose not to move to Oude Skip.”
Over a year later and those families remain in the fall.
They have been joined by two more families.  

Tables, trestles and chairs are used inside the hall to mark rooms, with one family choosing to live inside the administration office.

During this time, the community have been up in arms as the hall has been out of service.

“This hall could not be used, as it gets used for community awards functions, concerts and community meetings. Now we face a whole new problem at the civic, even a criminal element which is developing in the neighbouring building,” Mr Quintas said.

Opposite the entrance of the hall is a rundown garage that has also been occupied and has since been turned into a drug haven.

A resident, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said she remains frustrated that these families were allowed to live inside the hall for this long.

“These people look so comfortable. They have a security there, they have running water, electricity, their own kitchen and they are not even paying rent. This is City-owned stuff being used by these people and nobody is saying anything about it.”

The resident also raised the red flag about the situation at the “drug haven” unfolding right before their eyes.

“There are nights that the tiny building is completely packed with people either drinking, fighting or drugging. Again, this is all using City-owned stuff and it’s being allowed and our children are even exposed to these scenes,” the resident said.

Mr Quintas was aware of the allegations and complaints, but said it was time to put pressure on the relevant departments to properly address this matter.

“The remaining families are refusing to move to a different site. Now there are people either being invited or told to move in there and we are having issues or reports of drug abuse and other unsavoury activities unfolding at the civic,” Mr Quintas said.

Chrystalline Williams lives inside the administration office with her two sons and explained her reasons for not moving to Oude Skip.

“We were all taken to that piece of land, including my sister who also lost her house in a fire but chose to move up there.

“I decided not to go because I had raised questions about the ground and it not being suitable for living,” Ms Williams said.

At the time of the fire, Ms Williams was busy renovating her home, adding another storey to her house.

“I must now move to a new piece of land and start from scratch. The City is not going to give me my money back for what I spent on my house neither can they assure me that I will not be removed from Oude Skip in a few years time. I want assurance,” she said.

On the opposite end of the hall is Lorraine Mtolo who said she was always looking forward to moving, but suffered some major setback over the last year.

Ms Mtolo lives with her husband and children in one of the corners, cordoned off with tables, trestles and chairs.

“We had our stuff stolen twice already in this year and it was stuff we were planning to use to rebuild our home. We have been waiting for so long and it’s not that we don’t want to move,” she said.

“I feel like nothing is being done and we have been forgotten here inside the civic. Are they waiting for another fire to happen before they decide to help us again?”

She added that she was well aware of the Oude Skip location, as she previously worked on the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) on this very location.

When the Sentinel visited the Oude Skip site, several families were already set up inside their new homes, with some doing home improvements to their dwellings, but they were not prepared to speak to the media.

The City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, confirmed that the families were offered alternative accommodation, building kits and even transport to cart their belongings.

“The occupants refused as they wanted bigger plots. They also wanted a written agreement by the City that they would be able to build new homes with bricks and mortar. The City was not able to accommodate this request,” he said.

Mr Booi confirmed that if the families continued to ignore offers from the City, they would be evicted.

“The City will have no other option than to evict the occupants from the hall if they do not agree to be relocated. They have been offered assistance on multiple occasions and their actions cannot be to the detriment of the community in general,” Mr Booi said.