Monday, March 2, 2015

Khayelitsha hall set alight, three held

Cape Town - A community hall in Khayelitsha was set alight by a mob of angry residents when their children returned home from a city sports and recreation function with suspected food poisoning.

It resulted in the closure of parts of the N2 on Saturday night.

On Saturday the city’s Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department hosted a youth games event at the OR Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha.

It is alleged that children from the BM informal settlement, near Mew Way, who attended the sporting event returned home with complaints of stomach cramps.

Their parents believed the cramps were caused by food poisoning. Three children were taken to the Khayelitsha Hospital.

In the early hours of Sunday the parents met a group of residents who were protesting for houses. The two groups worked together and set the community hall alight.

Three women were arrested.

Ward councillor Monde Nqulana said the three women were parents of the children who fell ill.

Nqulana said BM residents were upset by two issues - the first being housing. He said the BM residents were promised housing from the Bosasa project in Mfuleni after their homes were burnt down in 2013.

He said after a long wait the residents learnt that the project had been put on hold by the city. “Last night they decided to protest and closed the N2 and Lansdowne with tyre barricades.”

He said housing protesters met the parents of the children in the morning.

“The food poisoning spiked the anger and I am afraid the hall is badly damaged. I doubt that there will be any sports taking place there now. The infrastructure is badly damaged.”

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said police were deployed to the scene and were there most of the morning.

He confirmed the arrests of three women. “Arson and public violence are being investigated.”

Mayoral committee member for community services and special projects Belinda Walker condemned the torching of the community hall.

She said the kitchen of the facility was destroyed and other parts of the building suffered minor structural damage. “It’s horrifying that people think that burning down a hall and inconveniencing people for an extended period of time is the way to air their grievances.”

She confirmed that the city received reports that 30 children fell ill with suspected food poisoning and that the participants were taken to Khayelitsha for treatment.

“While officials were briefing parents regarding the situation, a group of community members entered the venue as they were under the impression the meeting was related to housing development and service delivery matters.”

Walker said after it was explained that the meeting was not housing-related the group left and later returned in the morning to torch the hall.

“The city will launch an investigation into the matter of food poisoning due to refreshments supplied by the service provider, Ameena Ebrahim Caterers, and will, if necessary, take action.”

Additional reporting by ANA

- Cape Argus

Khayelitsha community hall burnt during protest, highway blocked

CAPE TOWN – Residents of Khayelitsha in Cape Town set fire to a community hall early on Sunday morning.

The incident follows service delivery protests yesterday, during which the N2 highway was blocked.

Community members say they're struggling to get the City of Cape Town to meet its housing commitments.

In 2013, residents of the B-M section were temporarily moved to another area, OR Tambo, after a fire destroyed their homes. They were then promised new houses in Mfuleni.

But after violence directed at the contractors in that area, the City of Cape Town put a stop to the Bosasa housing development.

“These people are angry because they can see they are not going to get what was agreed on between them and the City,” said ANC ward councillor, Monde Nqulwana.

A community member has accused the City of lying to them. “We were supposed to go to Bosasa in October. But that thing didn’t happen. They lied to us,” said Siyabulela Gifile. 

On Saturday, after three children contracted food poisoning at a community event, the protests escalated and the OR Tambo community hall was set alight the following morning.

Community members are angry that the mothers of the sick children have been detained.

"They say the only thing they want is for those parents to be released so they can interact with their sick children in hospital,” said Nqulwana.

While some community members are critical of the arsonists, others feel it’s the only way to get attention.

“The best way is to burn this hall,” said Gifile.

Khayelitsha community members have now threatened to block the N2 highway for as long as it takes, and say police will have to deploy extra forces for protection.

They’re vowing not to rest until Western Cape Premier Helen Zille herself comes to meet them, and until their demands for housing are met.

- eNCA

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Solar power for new Cape Town housing

Cape Town - Load shedding will become a dim memory for some residents of Belhar when work is completed next year on Cape Town’s first low-cost housing project to have solar-powered lighting.

“Residents will not be left in the dark when load shedding occurs,” said mayor Patricia de Lille.

“Not only is this good for the environment, it will also reduce residents’ electricity costs.”

De Lille launched the R34 million Belhar-Pentech development on Thursday with a promise, a plea and a strong caution to protect the development against drug dealers and shebeens.

She promised the 340 beneficiaries of the new project that their houses would be ready within 12 months, as scheduled.

“In an effort to speed up delivery we have appointed a contractor who will be building the houses and installing the bulk infrastructure simultaneously.”

But she also warned residents about letting drug dealers and illegal shebeens move into the development.

“You will sign a clause that says if there is any selling of drugs or alcohol, we will evict you. We mustn’t let (these people) live among us.”

She also urged the community to let the contractors do their work.

“There are lots of projects that are standing still because of community dynamics. We have got a year to finish this.

“If there are things that make you unhappy; don’t let it stall the project,” she said.

The 340 beneficiaries are from Belhar, Bellville South, Ravensmead and Elsies River.

Clarina Adams, who lives in the area, said she had told her children to give thanks every day for the opportunity to live in their own house.

She has been on the city’s housing waiting list since 1994.

De Lille said the city had managed to bring down the housing backlog from 400,000 to 258,000.

“It’s still a lot and it’s going to go up again because of urbanisation.” But she said the municipality was trying to speed up housing delivery.

“We are also not going to keep building rubbish for our poor people.”

The city was having to repair 40 000 RDP houses built without ceilings and adequate waterproofing, she said. This kind of shoddy construction ended up costing the municipality twice as much in repair costs.

De Lille said the Belhar development’s houses were designed to enable beneficiaries to build on to their two-bedroomed homes.

Each house has been allocated 120m2 of land specifically for this purpose, and the building plans for extensions have been pre-approved.

The development was close to transport routes, schools and employment opportunities, said De Lille.

The city has also committed 10 percent in rand value of the project - R3.5 million - to creating 100 jobs for the community through its expanded public works programme.

Councillor Desmond Jaftha, chair of Subcouncil 6, said he had already submitted motions for similar projects in other areas.

De Lille said efforts had been made to promote local skills and R5.2m had been set aside for local contractors to apply for subcontracting tenders.

The PVC solar panels would also be locally produced.

- Cape Argus

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bo-Kaap residents accused of torching shacks

Cape Town - About 60 shack dwellers living in the Bo-Kaap have been left destitute after their 12 shacks were torched last week, and they suspect unhappy local residents of being behind the fire.

Tensions are rising in the area, with angry residents accusing the shack dwellers of introducing a scourge of crime and drugs to the area.

The group of homeless people are now squatting under a tree on a street corner.

Bo-Kaap Civic chairman Osman Shaboodien said he had heard rumours of an arson attack, among other possible causes, for the fire that swept through the Farm, but there was no certainty.

“There’s nothing confirmed, and there’s no traces of a petrol bomb,” Shaboodien said.

“I don’t think members of the community would stoop to such a level. It’s inhumane.”

The area of land is known as the Farm, and was previously a military base along Military Road, which leads up to the Noon Day Gun. The land belongs to the Department of Public Works.

Hazel Maphomey had lived on the Farm for seven years before her shack was gutted.

“The police confirmed a petrol bomb was involved. We know people don’t want us here.”

She appealed to the Bo-Kaap residents: “Please understand what we’re going through, and just have a heart. All I want is for the community around us to bear with us. We have nowhere else to go.”

But Bo-Kaap residents meeting police, Neighbourhood Watch and ward councillor Dave Bryant on Monday night said the “squatters” had caused a scourge of crime, violence and drugs in the area, and they felt threatened in their homes and feared for the safety of their children.

“Everybody in this community is scared,” said one woman.

“I live on that corner and they are constantly targeting me.”

A man added: “They jump over the walls and washing disappears off lines.”

Another said: “They are selling drugs and poisoning our children.”

But Rose Hendricks, who has lived on the Farm for six years, said many of the people living there were not criminals.

“They tried to kill innocent people,” she said.

“Not all of us are doing drugs here.”

Hendricks burst into tears when she thought about her kitten that died in the fire.

“She was only two months old. I don’t have children, I only had that cat. I loved that cat.”

Edward Abrahams has lived in the Bo-Kaap for 50 years, and said the squatters had made life hell for residents.

“These people are not supposed to be here,” he said.

“A lot of criminals have come over from The Kraal, and drug users come up from the Parade. Our life is one big hell here.”

Abrahams said a tourist was mugged there just days earlier, in the area surrounding Signal Hill and the Noon Day Gun.

“How’s it going to affect tourism when people can’t even go up there in safety?”

The Bo-Kaap residents decided to reconvene in two weeks, when they hope Public Works will be present at the meeting.

- Cape Argus

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cape Town’s own Nkandla

Cape Town - Cape Town has its very own Nkandla. But unlike President Jacob Zuma’s multi-million rand homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, it has no “firepools”, cattle pens, tuck shops or other R246-million security features.

Instead residents of Nkandla in Mfuleni live on an open field without basic facilities such as running water or toilets, and now even without shelter.

Some of the almost 80 people live in makeshift tents, patched together from bits and pieces of used material.

Most of them sleep under the stars on old and broken mattresses, and food is cooked over bonfires.

The group were among over a thousand people who were evicted from Fountain Village in Blue Downs last year.

Yongama Folose of the Mfuleni Backyarders Organisation, says they first moved into a big tent, which they named Nkandla, on the open field.

“We clubbed together R1 each to hire the tent, and we paid R1 000 per week,” he said.

“But the number of people dropped and we couldn’t afford to rent the tent anymore.”

He said most of the people have left to move in with family and friends in other areas.

“Every time we build a structure, law enforcement comes and demolish it. But we are not moving from here because we have nowhere to go,” he adds.

Mama Yandisa Vika, 30, who lives with her two-year-old baby girl on the field says it’s been tough on them: “When the night comes it hurts me so much.

“Imagine I have to sleep with my daughter in the open under the moonlight. It was better when we had a tent, at least we had a roof over our heads.”

Folose also accused ward councillor Themba Honono of ignoring their plight.

But Honono says people were warned not to occupy the land, which he says belongs to the city council.

“But they were ordered by Ses’khona members to occupy the land,” says Hono.

Ses’khona spokesperson Sithembele Majova denied the allegations: “We are aware of the eviction, but we did not order the occupation of the land.

“As an organisation we believe people should be provided with an alternative place to stay when they are evicted.

“It is councillor Honono’s ward, and he is unable to manage it,” said Majova.

- Daily Voice


Monday, January 5, 2015

Boy killed, 300 homeless after fires

Cape Town - A seven-year-old boy was killed and close to 300 people were left displaced in separate shack fires over the weekend.

Brian Olifant, 7, was killed when a fire broke out, destroying four shacks in Wallacedene.

City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said the fiire broke out on Sunday at around 10am.

Solomons-Johannes said a community worker had said Brian was the second child in the family to be killed in a fire.

Community workers said they suspected the fire was ignited by a child playing with matches. However, city fire and rescue spokesman Theo Layne said investigators at the scene found that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.

Solomons-Johannes said 10 other people were displaced as a result of the fire.

In another incident, 67 shacks were destroyed in a blaze and 270 people were left homeless at the Ekuphumleni informal settlement in Dunoon near Milnerton. The fire broke out on Sunday around 11am.

Layne said it was suspected that it was caused by a cigarette left unattended.

“The cigarette ignited (clothing) which spread to the rest of the shack.”

Solomons-Johannes said no injuries were reported and a community centre in the area was used as an emergency shelter. He said humanitarian relief was arranged and building materials had been delivered.

Layne warned people to be careful when using cooking with fire at this time of the year, especially in informal settlements.

“We find that fires are mostly started by these braais, and what is worse is that people sometimes cannot extinguish the fires properly.”

He said that although there had not been many shack fires during the festive season, his department had received more than 100 reports of vegetation fires.

“Fires happen all the time in open fields; sometimes we find that it was a cigarette butt thrown out the window of a car, or someone walking through the fields.

“Also we found that a lot of malicious vegetation fires are started by children playing with matches.”

In the past few weeks, firefighting crews have been stretched due to the large vegetation fires caused by dry, sunny weather and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

On New Year’s Eve two large vegetation fires broke out and several small fires ignited in the Cape Flats.

Layne reported that the first day of the new year was chaotic.

In Noordhoek, two helicopters were called in to water bomb a vegetation fire. Layne said conventional vehicles were unable to reach the fire.

On the same day another large fire broke out in Ocean View and teams of firefighters, along with two helicopters, were called to the scene.

Both fires were suspected to have been caused by firecrackers.

- Cape Argus

President has a fire pool - Fuck the rest!

Party leaders, including Zuma and Ramaphosa, will start mobilising support for their rally tomorrow. The ANC uses the annual January 8 founding celebrations to outline its programme for the year in a speech delivered by the party’s incumbent president.

Zuma is expected to do walk-abouts and attend public meetings in various townships around Cape Town, including Langa, Nyanga and Mitchells Plain.

In Cape Town Zuma will be joined by 80 national executive committee members and ministers Nomvula Mokonyane and Derek Hanekom. Ramaphosa is also expected to hit the townships, but his schedule also includes door-to-door visits and mobilising campaign at taxi ranks and train stations.

“There were a lot of by-laws that we had to comply with, and we did. At first it was clear there were signs of frustration with us hosting the celebrations here. We are past those things now and we are ready for the business that has brought us here,” said Kodwa.

He said all political parties were looking to strengthen their bases, but that the weekend event had nothing do with campaigning.

- Sunday Independent

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Seven year old boy killed in Western Cape shack fire

A seven year old boy was killed on Sunday when a fire tore through four shacks in Wallacedene, the Cape Town disaster management said.

Ten other people were left homeless as a result, spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said in a statement.

In a separate incident, 270 people were displaced when a fire destroyed 67 shacks in Ekuphumleni informal settlement at Du Noon near Milnerton, he said.

No injuries were reported. Provision of humanitarian relief aid was being arranged.

Building materials would be provided to the affected households on Monday by the human settlements department, Solomons-Johannes said.

A community centre in the area would be used as an emergency shelter for those affected.

- Timeslive

Nkandla 11 won’t plead guilty to pending charges

Cape Town - The 11 Department of Public Works officials accused of flouting procurement procedures in relation to the upgrading of President Jacob Zuma’s controversial Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal will not settle with the state by pleading guilty.

According to the Sunday Independent, the officials, all represented by the Public Servants Association (PSA), are reportedly determined to allow the internal disciplinary hearings – set for next month - to go ahead.

Claude Naker, PSA manager, told the newspaper that the officials “do not fear anything at this stage and would want the process to continue so that they can prove their innocence”.

This comes after a 12th official, director of projects, Itumeleng Molosi, was handed a two month suspension after pleading guilty to charges relating to the Nkandla scandal.

Initial reports, as reported by News24, state that the remaining 11 officials could follow suit. The PSA has however, put this speculation to rest.

Molosi - represented by Nehawu at his hearing, served a brief spell as department of public works KZN director towards the end of the construction of the R246m upgrades of Zuma’s Nkandla residence.

Two-month suspension

At a closed hearing in Durban, Molosi admitted to failing to ensure that all Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) procurement processes were followed. He accepted a two-month unpaid suspension as part of his penalty, but with his job and pension intact.

Molosi would not comment on whether he took a deal to save his pension and referred all queries to the department of public works (DPW). But he did say that other officials implicated haven’t spoken to him since he admitted his guilt.

Another official facing sanction said the first he heard about Molosi’s deal was when it was published in City Press.

Naiker meanwhile said Molosi’s deal “surprised us”.

“As it stands, our 12 clients have all stated they are not guilty.

“Once the disciplinary hearings commence and we see the evidence, we will have a better idea [as to what our members’ options are],” he said.

He said if the DPW had strong evidence against Molosi, then his deal was “a good result” as his pension and job are still intact.

Naiker said the majority of officials face charges similar to Molosi’s.

A court application by Media24 to gain access to the process is pending.

But Media24 lawyer Willem de Klerk said nothing stops the accused officials and the DPW “from settling at any time, even though the media application is pending”.

Molosi was a member of the department’s bid adjudication committee, accused by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) of financial misconduct and irregular expenditure.

The SIU found that Molosi approved a “negotiated procurement strategy” instead of an open tender system by which tenders are advertised.

- News24