YOLANDE DU PREEZ
The City of Cape Town’s plan to lease a piece of land – which is at the centre of blistering tug-of-war – to a daycare accused of illegally occupying the plot has outraged some Hangberg residents.
The Little Angels Day Care founder and principal Liezl Mathews wants to officially lease the 285m2 plot in Karbonkel Road which the centre has been on for several years, but this move has elicted fierce objections from some quarters and allegations have surfaced that Ms Mathews is favoured by Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF); that the creche, started by a Christian-based non-profit organisation, excludes segments of the community; that Ms Matthews charges fees despite assuring otherwise; and that that creche is on the land illegally.
But Ms Mathews denies all these allegations and says it’s not the first time “some groups” have tried to get her off the land (“Battle brews over Hout Bay Cares, Sentinel, May 23, 2015”), which she claims to have been on since 2010 with the full blessing of the City, in the form of an interim agreement allowing her to use the land while applying for a formal lease.
Tempers flared last week on community Facebook page, Hout Bay Complete, after it emerged that Civic Association secretary, Roscoe Jacobs, had asked the City and Sub-Council 16 to hold off on granting the lease until it could be established whether Ms Mathews was on the land illegally.
In a letter addressed to the Good Hope Sub-council chairman Demetri Qually and ward councillor Marga Haywood, Mr Jacobs, who is also a ward committee member for Ward 74, accused the City of trying to secretly lease the land to Ms Mathews. He said he was unhappy with the public consultation process and asked why no action had been taken against Ms Mathews for illegally occupying the land.
He accused Ms Mathews of unlawfully building structures on the property, despite the Peace Accord, a High Court order stating that no structures could be built in Hangberg.
Hout Bay Cares, a drug rehabilitation centre, has supported his claims. Some of the centre’s buildings en-croach onto the plot occupied by Little Angels (Erf 5606) and the organisations have feuded over which one should be allowed to use the land. On Friday March 18, Hout Bay Cares manager Zulfa October faxed several letters to the Sentinel from both the centre’s employees and Hangberg residents opposing the City granting a lease to Little Angels.
A letter from Beryl Fray, a Hout Bay Cares cook and and Karbonkel Road resident, accused the City of being biased towards Ms Mathews, as previous applications to lease the land by other organisations, including churches and Hout Bay Cares, had been declined.
Ms Fray, who has lived in Hangberg for 55 years, said ever since she had been a little girl, the community had always said that the land belonged to the church. Now, she said, Ms Mathews was on it illegally.
She accused Ms Mathews of exploiting children’s vulnerability for her own gain, as some parents were being charged despite Ms Mathews’s claims that she ran a free crèche.
“It is all about the money and has nothing to do with the children,” she said.
Ms October said Hout Bay Cares also applied for use of the land, and it was denied.
“We approached the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) for assistance and nothing happened. It is clearly favouritism,” she said.
She said Hout Bay Cares looked after youngsters and adults with substance abuse problems and made a vital difference in the community.
A petition with the names of more than 90 residents opposed to the lease agreement was also sent to the City.
Ms Mathews hit back, saying Mr Jacobs had a personal vendetta against her and wanted the land to be occupied by Hout Bay Cares.
She said she had been on the land since 2010, before the Peace Accord was signed in September 2011, and had followed all the correct procedures to do so and had the necessary documentation to prove it.
But Mr Jacobs said: “I have no personal vendetta against Ms Mathews. The occupation of Erf 5606 violated the interim order granted on September 30 2010 and this order was made final just over a year later. So the structures erected by Ms Matthews are illegal as she didn’t get permission from the City and so violated the court order.”
He did not want to close the crèche, he said, but the City should clarify whether other occupants of illegal land would be get a chance to lease the land they were on.
Ms Mathews said the Hout Bay Christian and Social Upliftment organisation, had started Little Angels, but the crèche had since been registered as an independent NPO. She said she had never discriminated against any religion and would gladly accommodate children of all faiths.
In January 2013, Hout Bay Cares CEO Jurgens Smit wrote a letter to the City asking it to support Little Angels Day Care and “make this crèche happen.”
At the time, Ms Mathews had volunteered to look after the children of women treated at Hout Bay Cares.
“We had a good relationship, and I charged him a minimal fee during the three years I looked after those children,” she said, denying that she had ever claimed it was a no-fee school. Parents paid what they could afford and she had never turned a child away because the parents could not afford to pay.
Mr Smit declined to comment.
Ms Mathews claimed some of the residents who had signed the petition had no knowledge of doing so.“The matter will be investigated, and, if need be, I will open a case of fraud at the police station,” she said.
PMF chairman, Jan Lewis denied that the PMF favoured Ms Mathews.
“There are many organisations operating within the community and they all benefit and serve the community. She is committed to the community and makes a difference in the community, there is no denying it, but she is not favoured by the PMF,” he said.
The tussle over Erf 5606 had been ongoing for years (“Hands off Cares say residents,” Sentinel, June 5, 2015,”), he said. The PMF had suggested that Ms Matthews lease part of the land and the rest be used for a hub centre housing other organisations, including Hout Bay Cares, to benefit the entire commu- nity.
“We (the PMF) are a non political party and our aim is to assist the Hangberg community to obtain peace without any hidden agendas,” he said.
Deputy mayor and mayco member for finance Ian Neilson said it was standard procedure for the City to inform all interested and affected parties about the leasing of land through newspaper adverts.
“In this case it was advertised in the Cape Times and Afrikaans newspaper, Die Burger,” he said.
He said Little Angels had applied to regularise its occupation of Erf 5606, and the City’s property management department was processing it.
A report recommending the approval of the lease to Little Angels would be tabled before the Sub-council for comment soon, he said. He was unable to say when Little Angels had occupied the land.
“The occupation of the property only came to the attention of the City in 2013. There is currently no lease in place and therefore no renewal,” he said.