City and Blikkiesdorp residents fail to see eye-to-eye

| Mary-Anne Gontsana
Blikkiesdorp. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

“Residents of Blikkiesdorp do not trust the City [of Cape Town government],” says a Blikkiesdorp leader, Jerome Daniels. A meeting on Thursday night highlighted the ongoing tensions between this community and the City.

In May GroundUp reported that the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) and the City reached a deal whereby ACSA will buy the Blikkiesdorp land so that Cape Town airport can be extended. Blikkiesdorp is what the City calls a “temporary relocation area”. Residents have been moved there by the City from other parts of Cape Town, and will eventually be given housing in other neighbourhoods, or at least that’s the plan.

Blikkiesdorp residents are sceptical of the City’s and ACSA’s deal though which they say was negotiated without properly consulting them. The residents will need to be rehoused if the plan to extend the airport proceeds.

Thursday night’s meeting took place in a white tent in the middle of Blikkiesdorp. Hundreds of residents were addressed by Councillor Benedicta van Minnen, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, and other City officials. Frustrations ran high at the meeting.

In an email to GroundUp, Van Minnen said the purpose of the meeting was to clear up “some of the misconceptions and misinformation that had been pushed by lobby groups and activists about ACSA’s proposed plans for the development of the airport precinct.” She said that Blikkiesdorp is a located “in an airport safety zone” and needs to be relocated. The same goes for the settlements of Freedom Farm and Malawi Camp. She described the process as being “in its infancy.” She said that “qualifying households will eventually be rehoused on residential land located to the west and east of Symphony Way,” the road that runs alongside Blikkiesdorp. “Bear in mind that we have to do everything in our power to ensure that we maintain a fair and systematic approach to the delivery of housing opportunities and to prevent queue-jumping. Potential beneficiaries would therefore be assessed in accordance with the National Allocation Policy,” said Van Minnen.

She said it was an intricate process, which would involve eventual land swaps and rezoning of land, as well as community engagement. “It could take many years.” She described “current activist campaigns” as “completely premature.” She asked that “residents and stakeholders engage with me in an open and positive manner and not be swayed by those who are driving their own, narrow agenda.”

Daniels however said nothing substantial came out of the meeting. “Everyone who came to the meeting came for one purpose, to voice out their frustrations. Frustrations on not being included in plans regarding an issue that affects them and the terrible conditions we have continuously had to endure,” he said.

Daniels, lived on a pavement along Symphony Way before being moved to Blikkiesdorp in 2011. “The conditions here are terrible. The structures leak. Strong winds wreak havoc and there is just too much illnesses. … We challenged Van Minnen in the meeting to come and spend one day in Blikkiesdorp without bodyguards, just to experience the life that we live everyday. The City comes up with all these plans and uses fancy words to try and get us to agree with them. We are excluded. None of our questions were answered in the meeting, they cannot do things without including us because at the end of the day, we must make the decision about where we want to move to,” said Daniels.

Right2Know’s provincial coordinator, Khaya Xintolo, who was also present at the meeting backed up Daniels claim that the City representatives failed to answer questions that were put to them by the residents.

“Residents were told that the move could take anything from three to seven years because it was a long process and there was also the issue of the waiting list for people who did not qualify for housing. But there were no answers to the questions at hand. … The meeting ended up being chaotic and made people even more frustrated,” said Xintolo.

A statement sent out on Tuesday by the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) said the City had agreed with ACSA that the community of Blikkiesdorp must be moved, but there was no timeline for this move. Only those entitled to a housing subsidy would move to the new development, and the rest would be relocated elsewhere. “The upgrade of the current runway and the building of a second runway will cause significant impact on Blikkiesdorp and surrounding communities, including levels of noise that are unacceptable,” the ODAC statement said.

TOPICS:  Government Housing

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