18 May 2018
Protests in Hermanus over housing and land for residents in Zwelihle have been ongoing all week and continued on Friday. Since March, protests have centred on a controversial land deal in neighbouring Schulphoek.
Zwelihle residents complained about broken promises and blamed municipal mismanagement and corruption for the lack of housing. GroundUp approached some protesters but they did not wish to speak to the media.
On Thursday police were on high alert in front of the Hermanus Beach Club complex, facing a field which protesters had set alight. About five different private security companies were guarding private property in the area. Sandbaai Neighbourhood Watch was on patrol. Stones and burnt debris was strewn across roads and pavements. Police told GroundUp that the protestors had kept them busy and were scattered everywhere in small groups.
A spectator, who only gave her name as Anell, said, “As it is now nobody is safe; business closed down; most of the shops on the main road are closed; and yesterday children were dismissed early from school … Today [Thursday] they didn’t go. This is bad because they are preparing for June examinations. The protesters also attacked people who they had seen going to work.”
Speaking to GroundUp at Sisulu Street, close to the protesters, Chris Nissen of the South African Human Right Commission (SAHRC) described recent developments as a “breakthrough”. “The municipality has found housing land for Zwelihle residents in Schulphoek. There has been an agreement between the community leadership and the municipality in terms of the land identified. Human settlements [department] has agreement with the owner of the land to repurchase the land for the provision of housing settlement for the community of Zwelihle, who are on the waiting list or homeless at the moment.”
Commissioner Nissen said poor communication and a lack of trust “has always been an issue”. The Municipality of Overstrand and community leaders in Zwelihle now have to work out how to proceed and agree on a timeframe. The SAHRC and police will be monitoring the process, said Nissen.
“An agreement was reached with the land owner,” said Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements. “They are willing to sell and we are willing to buy [the land].” She said the land would first have to be valued before a sale could take place. She could not provide a timeframe.
Zwelihle community member Theron Mqhu told GroundUp that an agreement had been reached with the municipality for residents to stay in the meantime on a piece of land on Mbeki Road while the sale of the Schulphoek land is negotiated.
In a statement on Tuesday, ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary, Faiez Jacobs, said the ANC is demanding that Schulphoek land be returned to public ownership and the original sale of Schulphoek be investigated by an independent institution.