Hangberg: mixed reaction to new housing development

| Barbara Maregele
Photo by Barbara Maregele.

For the first time since a violent clash between residents and law enforcement in 2010, development of new housing is proceeding in Hangberg, Hout Bay. 142 new rental units are being built.

Many Hangberg residents have welcomed the development, but a small group are opposed, claiming the City went ahead with plans without consulting everyone in the community.

Last year the City obtained a court to evict 20 families living in Hangberg’s so-called Texas and Dallas informal settlements which were situated on land allocated for the new housing. The evicted residents were put in temporary housing.

To learn more about Hangberg, see below: History of a conflict

The current disagreement centres on who will get priority for the new housing: those residents who were evicted or those who have been on a housing waiting list for several years. (Some of the residents who were evicted are also on the housing waiting list.)

The City’s Mayco member for Human Settlements, Tandeka Gqada, said the development was one of four sites in Hangberg for the construction of subsidised housing. “Construction is expected to be completed by early next year with work on the second site due to start late next year,” she said.

Gqada said the project was an important part of rebuilding a community with challenges around conflict and the management of expectations. “A multi-faceted approach is being followed to determine the final beneficiary list. It is foreseen that most of the beneficiaries will come from the Housing Needs Database, as well as the residents who were living informally on the two sites earmarked for development [Texas and Dallas]. However, the final allocation split has not been decided on yet,” she said.

In March, Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille attended a sod-turning event for the new rentals.

Resident Helen Abrahams and her 12-year-old daughter, Angelica, along with the 20 other families who were moved from the Texas and Dallas informal settlements, have been living in temporary structures for eight months already. Abrahams said the construction of the new homes was a sign of hope for the community after years battling for housing. “I grew up in Hangberg. My mother and grandmother also lived there so it was my safe haven. It was very quiet down there compared to this area, but we make the most of it because at the end of the day our children will benefit from this saga. We are very keen because we will be given preference to move in when they are done,” she said.

Abrahams said it was important for community members to set aside their differences in order to improve service delivery in the area.

Several other residents, including 55-year-old Elizabeth Toll, who has been on the housing waiting list for more than ten years, also welcomed the development. She too was evicted last year and is likely to be given preference.

But, Angeline Davids, a mother of four, said she was concerned about the City’s promise to secure housing for all the residents on the waiting list. “The City has made a lot of promises over the years they haven’t kept. I was one of the people who refused to move from Dallas, but I didn’t want my children to go through what happened [in 2010]. [The City] didn’t ask us if we wanted units to be built there. They just came in and forced us to move off the land. We still aren’t sure if those flats are really for us,” she said.

Davids said she was unhappy with the condition of the wood and iron temporary home provided by the City after she was removed from Dallas. “When we moved in, all it had was a toilet with bare walls and a cement floor. The wind blows through big cracks at night and water seeps through when it rains. It’s as if the City just left us here like dogs,” she said.

Angeline Davids and three of her four children. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

The Hout Bay Civic Association’s Roscoe Jacobs said the uncertainty about who will benefit from the development could increase tension in the community if the concerns are not addressed. “The situation on the ground is very different to what Zille and the City makes it out to be. Residents are still not sure whether people on the waiting list will benefit from those units or if the people living in the temporary housing will be given preference. This could cause more fights between residents once the units are completed,” he said.

History of a conflict

The harbour-side community of Hangberg in Hout Bay has been at the centre of spats with Premier Helen Zille and the City of Cape Town, as well as within their own leadership for the past three and a half years. Most people in this working-class community rely on fishing for a living, but unemployment is extremely high.

In September 2010 Hangberg residents clashed violently with police and the City’s land invasion unit. Residents, disenchanted with the slow pace of housing delivery, had settled on a firebreak on the Sentinel, a mountain overlooking Hout Bay. When they were forcibly removed several residents were hurt, three suffering serious eye injuries.

In the aftermath of the violence, residents formed the Peace and Mediation Forum. This consisted of 32 local residents. However, the Forum split when members disagreed over several issues, including negotiations with the City. However, the forum was reconstituted at the end of last year following a peace accord.

Premier Helen Zille and City officials have defended their efforts to resolve the conflict and move forward with providing housing. Zille has attributed the delays for new construction to community in-fighting.

Roscoe Jacobs has been at the centre of the conflict. Jacobs said the Hout Bay Civic Association lodged a complaint with the Public Protector’s office in April to investigate Zille to determine if due process was followed during the violent 2010 clash with police. He told GroundUp, “The main reason behind all the fighting is because people can’t disassociate politics from issues in the community.” He has accused the City of not consulting with residents before the recent construction started.

In response Zille’s acting spokesperson, Tracè Venter, said a lot of time and resources had been dedicated to the Hangberg area. “Premier Zille and Mayor De Lille met with elected representatives of the community at least 30 times in scheduled and unscheduled engagements. R2 million was spent on facilitation and mediation and a further R8 million to purchase land for new housing,” she said.

Venter said that despite numerous interventions, the conflict between different interest groups in the area had resulted in delays. “Despite the lengthy election process, the Peace and Mediation Forum soon found itself in conflict with those who had not been elected. This eventually led to the elected leadership withdrawing. New leaders were elected, but the conflict in the community escalated,” she said.

Venter added that the accusations made by Jacobs were politically motivated. “He submitted his complaint … to the Public Protector less than a month before the elections and was accompanied by the Western Cape ANCYL Task Team Convenor Muhammad Khalid Sayed at the time. It appears that this is nothing more than political grandstanding. However, our government will co-operate and provide full access to any documentation,” she said.

TOPICS:  Housing Human Rights Local government Provincial

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