Wrangle over PMF

Community representative Lee Smith.

Hangberg is once again a “powder keg” as frustrations mount over the make-up of the governing Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) and the alleged failure by both it and City of Cape Town to heed calls for current members to resign and stand for re-election.

While a high-level meeting chaired by mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, is scheduled to take place at the Hangberg civic centre on Monday October 9, the agenda makes no reference to the PMF, despite the issue forming a significant part of residents’ grievances during last month’s violent protests which brought Hout Bay to a standstill (“Fury fuels Hangberg protests,” Sentinel, September 15).

The detailed agenda covers various housing issues that have dogged Hangberg – including rental stock, the Hangberg Informal Development Area (HiDA) and backyard dwellers, all of which were raised with City representatives both prior to and after the protests. But the absence of the PMF issue has angered some who believe the PMF has not looked after their interests, especially housing for residents.

In an email to PMF secretary, Warren Abrahams, on September 25, community representative, Shanaaz Samaai, called on the forum to hold meetings to change its constitution so people over the age of 18, who were born or are currently living in Hangberg, would be the sole constituents of the PMF’s electoral college.

An extraordinary general meeting of the PMF then would be held at the earliest available opportunity.

They also demanded that all current officials resign their positions and offer themselves for re-election, while the PMF would agree to the election of an interim chairperson to oversee the extraordinary general meeting.

“We have had no response from the PMF to our demands. All they have done is make public the list of people who currently sit on the PMF,” said community representative, Lee Smith.

“But what has shocked us about this list is that in the past month, three new members have been appointed. This has been done despite our constant calls for the current leadership to stand down and make themselves available for re-election, something they have ignored.”

Mr Smith said both the PMF and City of Cape Town were showing “disdain” for the community by not addressing their demands for re-election of the body.

“We have the housing meeting on Monday, but we cannot move forward until our concerns over the PMF leadership have been addressed. Right next door to Hangberg there is a huge private development happening, where a huge fence has gone up. This is in the face of the people who don’t have access to proper housing, yet the PMF doesn’t say anything about this.”

According to residents, in terms of the 2011 Peace Accord, the document governing the administration of Hangberg following the 2010 riots in which residents clashed with Metro police, no development could occur on the mountain until residents had gained access to low-cost housing.

Mr Abrahams, the PMF secretary, said his organisation worked strictly along legal lines and was guided by its constitution.

“The PMF, through its constitution, is able to co-opt members to sit in a temporary capacity until the next AGM. These three members would have been co-opted at the beginning of the year, not in the past month,” he said.

“Furthermore, in 2016 we, as office bearers, were mandated by our electoral college to serve until 2018. At that time, we will either stand for re-election or resign. Lee Smith also needs to be clear as to who exactly he wants to resign from the PMF. Is it the office bearers, or the coordinators on the PMF? He must come out and say this.”

The electoral college comprises signatories of the Hangberg Peace Accord.

Mr Abrahams said residents objecting to the current PMF leadership would need to approach the Western Cape High Court in order for new elections to be held, as the Hangberg Peace Accord was later made an order of this court.

“On numerous occasions, the PMF has reached out to this small group of residents calling for new elections. But they are not interested in working with us. They want to be the new leaders. This is a group of well-funded individuals. Some of them have wanted to be nominated to the PMF, but their cluster or area residents did not want to nominate them to represent the cluster as they did the entire community wrong when they represented us on the disbanded Hout Bay Civic Association.”

Mr Smith said the Hangberg community had tried to do everything it could to create awareness around these issues.

“There were the violent protests. Then we started a healing process to try to convince the greater Hout Bay community that we had legitimate grievances. But now we are being ignored again. We are starting to ask ourselves whether it is a tactic by the City and provincial government to string us along. Then when the situation blows up again, it makes it easy for them to blame us as trouble makers and they can just forget about us. “This community has been very patient, but I fear what is going to happen if we continue to be stonewalled. It is a powder keg.”

Ms Little said: “The membership and change of membership of the Peace and Mediation Forum is determined by the PMF’s constitution. The City has explored the issue and determined that it would be inappropriate for us to exercise influence in determining the membership of the PMF. The Mayor has advised that the community should discuss the issue among themselves, and find an amicable solution.”