Blikkiesdorp residents accuse ACSA and City of deciding their future without them

| Ashleigh Furlong
Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

It has taken eight months for the residents of Blikkiesdorp to be given access to an agreement between the City of Cape Town and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA). The agreement outlines ACSA’s plans to purchase the land on which the Blikkiesdorp residents are currently residing and rehouse them.

In September last year GroundUp reported on Blikkiesdorp residents’ inability to access the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and ACSA over the realignment of the Cape Town International Airport’s runway.

The realignment of the runway is needed to comply with international regulations as well as to allow for larger commercial aircraft to land. This is part of a bigger revamp of the airport, which will increase its capacity. SRK Consulting is the company contracted by ACSA to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of ACSA’s proposed plans. It completed a series of public open days on 19 May, where affected communities or concerned individuals could comment on the plans.

“What did they think calling it an open day?” asked Right2Know’s Western Cape Organiser Vainola Makan. Makan said that the open day consisted of posters which explained the process in complex terms which no ordinary individual would be able to understand. Jerome Daniels, a member of the Joint Committee said that the residents were not informed of the open day and only heard about it through Right2Know and Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC).

“SRK say that they informed the ward councillor of the open day” said Jerome Daniels, a member of the Blikkiesdorp Joint Committee which represents the residents of Blikkiesdorp. But Khayalethu Makeleni, the ward 106 councillor, said that he was not informed. “Not directly, never directly,” said Makeleni when asked whether he knew about the plans for a public meeting.

At the open day on 14 May SRK wanted to have individual consultations with residents. The residents opposed this and instead insisted that they be allowed a question and answer session about the airport’s plans. Following the open day, the Joint Committee sent their own submission to SRK on 25 May and had a two hour meeting with SRK.

Yesterday morning, the Joint Committee had a meeting with other members of a housing coalition, including Right2Know. The housing coalition was formed to ensure that all concerned parties could be involved in the process. In the meeting residents came up with questions that they want to ask ACSA when they meet with them.

Daniels wants to know why the residents were not involved in the beginning of the process and why they were not informed that ACSA wanted to buy land from the City. “I think that ACSA doesn’t care about us, they just care about business,” said Daniels.

“Our rights have been taken away from us,” said Beverley Davids, who is also a member of the Joint Committee. Davids said that Blikkiesdorp residents never had a meeting with anyone representing the City or ACSA and that the City is playing mind games with them.

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, said that according to the MOU the City will be responsible for the development of residential land and ACSA will be responsible for the development of land used for industrial or airport purposes.

As to claims that residents were never consulted, she said that this is not entirely accurate. “We have been talking to residents about the housing lists and have been talking to the ward councillor,” said van Minnen. “I have only been the Mayco member for human settlements since January so I cannot say what happened before that.”

Blikkiesdorp consists of 1,750 dwellings. It was meant to be a temporary relocation area, but it has now been in existence for eight years and living conditions are very poor. Resident Gerald van der Westhuizen said that his daughter moved out of Blikkiesdorp because she was getting sick. “It’s cold and the infrastructure is not proper here,” said van der Westhuizen.

Gerald van der Westhuizen with his dog. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

“We are still using the bucket system,” said Andrew Badenhorst another Joint Committee member. “They [the City] don’t care what we are living in. Lots of people are sick and every month the drains flow over,” he added.

The residents are calling for proper homes. “The first step of development is decent housing,” said Badenhorst. Badenhorst and the rest of the Joint Committee want to know what ACSA and the City are planning for Blikkiesdorp.

Van Minnen said that the proposed plan is to rehouse residents from the three affected communities, namely, Freedom Farm, Malawi Camp and Blikkiesdorp, on residential land located to the east and west of Symphony Way. “A benefit of the plan for Blikkiesdorp residents is that they will be permanently housed and households that qualify for a housing subsidy will get ownership of their property,” she said. The residents said that they want to be assured that they will receive proper homes and be consulted on this. They do not want to be moved to another temporary relocation area; rather they want to receive proper houses. “If they want this land they must give us decent houses,” said Badenhorst of ACSA’s plans.

“The next step is to go block to block and have meetings to inform all the residents on each block. Public meetings are good but not everyone comes,” said Daniels of the Joint Committee’s plans. The Joint Committee has requested a meeting with ACSA. The committee members also want to meet with the City. With the help of Right2Know the Joint Committee is also going to be printing a monthly newsletter for the community, informing them of any developments.

The City said that they are still in the early stages of the rehousing project and that they will be “engaging with the communities where necessary”.

Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

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TOPICS:  Government Housing Human Rights

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