Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bitter gray areas in Hangberg clash

A SCENIC mountainside in Cape Town has been filled with scenes of ugly violence as police attempted to carry out a wave of evictions against shackdwellers living there.

When dozens of residents of Hangberg in Hout Bay clashed with the police they were shot at with rubber bullets and dragged across rocky ground by their feet.

Three of the residents will have glass eyes fitted this week after each had an eyeball shot by police.

The aim of the police action was to demolish shacks that had allegedly been built on a firebreak.

In an interview on on-line television station Zoopy TV Western Cape Premier Helen Zille denied any wrongdoing.

"We have been working very hard to upgrade the informal settlement," she said. "We spent R8million on new land and the community knew about that.

"They have never been able to elect a representative committee, as unfortunately that committee is so divided and they have certainly not kept to their agreement that they would not expand into the firebreak or nature reserve.

"There were about 307 (shacks) on the site, which we agreed to upgrade, but numbers much more than doubled and encroached on the nature reserve," Zille said.

In the same video three burly police are seen escorting someone who does not appear to be putting up a struggle to the police van. For effect, the cops give him a few kicks as he is getting into the van.

While numerous people at Hangberg had explained in the media why they would rather remain in their homes than be evicted, Zille opted to "spin it" - blaming druglords for abusing the community.

"It is violence from a small group primarily known as the Rastas. They are both drug users and often I'm afraid, drug peddlers - and the druglords in that community have really subjugated the community, who live in fear of power abuse and this violence is just an extension of that power abuse," Zille told Zoopy TV.

One of the community leaders, Fred Martin, said Zille had merely invented the statement that the community was controlled by druglords.

In any case, since Zille's government controls the police, is there any reason why druglords should roam free, manipulating communities?

Another leader, Greg Louw, said it suited Zille to pretend Hangberg residents had no leaders or direction.

"They are also lying bluntly when they say we grabbed land and put up structures overnight in a so-called firebreak. If nobody maintains a firebreak and it is overgrown, is it still a firebreak?" Louw asked.

"They have failed us big time. Under apartheid the NP failed us, then the new ANC administration failed us and now the DA has failed us. All we are saying is take us seriously and provide services in this area," Louw said.

Rhodes University academic Richard Pithouse said politicians find it convenient to claim uprisings are conspiracies against them.

"Helen Zille, just like many of the ANC politicians, seems unable to understand that popular rejection of her policies is perfectly legitimate and not some sort of conspiracy. Until politicians understand that shack settlements are communities that need to be supported by the state, the tension between shack dwellers and the state will continue to escalate," Pithouse told Sowetan.

He feels the government is deliberately ignoring the possibility of development and is instead relying on "state violence" to solve their problems.

"(Former minister of housing Lindiwe) Sisulu's attempt to use state violence to eradicate shack settlements was defeated, but current Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has failed to develop a new set of policies to support shack dwellers entrench their right to the cities and decent housing.

"There's been a lot of spin from his office, but no real substance."

A key gripe of shack dwellers in Cape Town is that when their shacks are torn down they face being dumped 28km from the city centre in a transit camp known as Blikkiesdorp or Tin Can Town.

Some families have been living in temporary one-room tin shacks in Blikkiesdorp for five years now. With communal taps, no bathrooms or showers but many unhygienic blocked toilets, other communities are keen to escape the same fate.

"Temporary Relocation Areas or transit camps are an unacceptable response to the housing crisis, that simply moves people from their own shacks to government shacks with the latter often being much smaller" Pithouse believes.

Human Sciences Research Council researcher Mcebisi Ndletyana said: "transit camps do not help as it is intrinsic to human settlement that people have to be located close to work".

"Relocating people far from the city only perpetuates the old apartheid planning concept, which was to keep natives as far away from the white folks as possible".

Ndletyana explained that the poor and the shack dwellers would have to hold on a bit longer.

"Part of the solution is to develop rural areas in such a way that people are able to make a livelihood there, to curb the necessity of their moving to urban areas" he said.

- Sowetan

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New technology to improve housing delivery

The Department of Human Settlements is on a quest to find new technology that is both cost effective and quality orientated to provide better housing for South Africans.

This technology needed to be environmentally friendly, sustainable and address other challenges facing housing in the country, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said on Wednesday during the department's Alternative Building Technologies Indaba in Sandton.

The two-day indaba brings together officials from all spheres of government, the private sector, regulatory authorities, scientific, research and tertiary institutions.

Sexwale called on delegates to ensure that the indaba was more than just a "talk shop", urging them to make it a productive working session that would give rise to ideas that could be implemented.

He said his department was looking for new ways of building better homes, which included new green solutions and mechanisms for responding to climate change.

He elaborated that the department was looking for new ideas on issues such as internal electrification, solar panels, improved sanitation, heating and water reticulation systems, and durable roofing.

Technology that benefitted people needed to be both cost effective and sustainable, he said. However, the minister stressed that while the department was cost conscious and looking for cheaper material, quality would not be compromised.

"Our people, particularly the poorest of the poor, deserve much better," he said.

Sexwale added that the focus of his department was to build sustainable human settlements. He described these as places where people stay, play and pray. The minister said that this integrated approach was aimed at developing proper suburbs, villages and towns.

The minister said that some old technologies that had produced houses that stood strong over centuries should not be ignored. Modern technology needed to complement and build on century-old initiatives.

New technologies should also assist in the identification of available land, the minister added.

"Given rapid urbanisation and the rate of population growth, with the diminishing availability of land in relation to the growing number of people, it means we have to apply new technologies to build better homes," he said.

Sexwale said South Africa also needed to pay attention to the experience of other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, China, Angola and Equatorial Guinea, which have made significant strides in the area of human settlements.

- BuaNews

Hangberg community welcomes call to probe alleged police brutality

The Hout Bay Civic Association on Wednesday welcomed calls by the African National Congress in the Western Cape for a commission of inquiry into the violence that erupted in Hangberg last week.

Several residents and police officers were injured in violent clashes.

City of Cape Town officials moved into the area to dismantle shacks erected illegally on Sentinel Hill.

Association spokesperson Greg Louw said the debacle should never have been politicised.

“We are trying to keep it non-political; we are non-political... We are trying only to address the civic issues which are housing and land,” he said

He added the ANC’s call for a formal probe into the alleged police brutality was welcomed.

“If it is now the ANC or the ANC Youth League or if it is the SACP or the DA coming out and helping us, it is just an issue of [us] saying we only want to focus on the civic issue,” he said.

- Eyewitness News

Sexwale finding it tough

PROVINCES and municipalities have refused to provide the national department of Human Settlements with progress reports regarding housing projects in their areas.

Minister Tokyo Sexwale said in his annual report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, that the tendency made it impossible for the national department to know whether housing projects were going ahead or stalling.

He said some provinces and municipalities just ignored his department when they asked for progress reports.

He said that to make matters worse, vacant posts in the housing planning and delivery support unit meant that "it has been impossible to track the progress made with other projects" he said.

Six housing projects were affected including the Duncan Village project in East London, Grasslands project in Free State, and the Emnambithi housing project in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal.

Sexwale said the KZN provincial housing department was "reluctant to use housing funds" for the Emnambithi project. The department was not even willing to attend a meeting to discuss the matter, he said.

The Chief Albert Luthuli Extension Six project in Ekurhuleni was also affected. This new project was supposed to provide houses for shack dwellers from the Gabon, Emandleni, Chris Hani and Home Seekers informal settlements, but Sexwale said because of a lack of staff, he was unable to know if the project was still on track.

People waiting for houses to come from the Disteneng project near Polokwane threatened earlier this year to block the main road to the city if they didn't get houses.

Sexwale said this project had run into problems after "contractors failed to perform, and there were payment disputes which led to the project becoming blocked", he said.

His department only learnt that there were problems at a late stage "because the Polokwane municipality and Limpopo Provincial department did not submit progress reports, in spite of numerous requests", Sexwale added.

The Lerato Park project in Kimberley, Klarinet project in Witbank, and Khutsong project had also run into "challenges", the Annual Report stated.

The Human Settlements department had R13billion to spend last year - R12,5billion of this was directed straight to the provincial housing departments.

Only Mpumalanga and Western Cape failed to spend all their housing money. But Western Cape and Eastern Cape were good at providing regular progress reports, the Annual Report found.

Meanwhile, the department is one step away from a clean audit after running up almost one R1million in irregular spending last year.

In its Annual Report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, Auditor-General Terence Nombembe gave Tokyo Sexwale's department an unqualified audit.

- Sowetan

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hout Bay resident threatens “an eye for an eye” for Helen Zille

Residents of Hout Bay are very angry with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille right at this moment. One of them in particular would be satisfied with clawing her eyes out, She has said as much.

The cause of all this animosity is a result of the Hout Bay riots last week; police were evicting illegal squatters on Tuesday and Wednesday when three people lost one eye each and landed up in hospital.

Helen Zille should remember the idiom, “An eye for an eye,” when thinking about Hout Bay, said a furious Auriol Cloete.

“If I had seen her on that day I would have taken her eyes out,” she added.

A rubber bullet caught her in the eye when she went to see what all the commotion was about.

An injured neighbour helped her to her mother's home; her eye was dangling from the socket.

"I have four children and they screamed when they saw me. I told them to drop to the ground because I didn't know what was happening," she said.

In hospital, she discovered that a member of her family was also in hospital due to the exact injury. "His name is Maurice Adams. He lost his right eye. He is still in hospital."
“I have lost my eye because of the police. I will have a fake eye,” she said.

Adams, 29, is now partially blind after being shot while cleaning his yard.

“They (police) just came to my yard and shot at me and didn’t wait to see if I was injured or not,” he says.

Ikram Halim, 40, was also shot in the eye that day whilst helping children get out of the firing line.

“The children didn’t know what to do at the time and I was trying to get them out of the way when the police started shooting,” says the fisherman.
“When I turned around, I saw a bullet coming straight to my eye, the rubber bullet fell out minutes later.”

Helen Zille has apologised for the injuries that the residents suffered but she also said that residents were asked repeatedly to take down the structures.

"I am very very sorry that anyone got hurt. It's a complete tragedy and I regret that it happened; 16 metro police officers were also injured," said Zille.

Auriol Cloete was told that Zille had called wanting to pay a visit.

"The nurse told me that Helen Zille phoned to say that she wanted to visit us. I was so angry that I said I would rip her eyes out so she could come and lie next to me in hospital."

- NewsTime

An eye 4 an eye - en daar gat service delivery...

The ANC in Western Cape has launched a scathing attack on provincial Premier Helen Zille following the violence that erupted in the Hangberg settlement in Hout Bay last week.

It said it would call on President Jacob Zuma to launch a commission of inquiry into the matter after residents appealed to the ruling party.

Yesterday, ANC senior member and Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana met Hangberg residents in his capacity as convenor of an ANC provincial task team.

Last week, Cape Town officials demolished 29 shacks illegally built on a firebreak. But they were met by angry locals who tried to prevent the demolition.

Sixteen metro police officers were injured when residents pelted them with stones, hurled petrol bombs and shot at them.

Police peppered residents with rubber bullets, injuring dozens, including many bystanders. Four people were blinded in an eye.

One of the victims, Lizzie Jacobs, pulled off her cap to show Mdladlana the bullet wound to her head.

Mdladlana said he was outraged by the incident.

"This is not the first time I hear such stories. This could have been handled better [by provincial government]. This is such a posh place ..." he said.

"Yes, that is why they want to move us from here," interjected a resident.

"You have people, not knowing what is happening and then daar kom die bloed ..." Mdladlana said.

He warned residents that his taking up the issue could result in the situation turning ugly.

"Ek hoop nie julle is bangbrokke nie. You know what Helen Zille is going to say - 'This is political'.

"I will make an appeal to the president that there should be a commission of inquiry into this situation," he said. "I would rather be unpopular than have people killed or lose another eye."

Cape Town has applied for interdicts and eviction orders "as a last resort".

Zille said last night: "The commission is a political ruse. Mdadlana is clearly acting as the political head of the ANC in Western Cape. This has nothing to do with dealing with the issue.

"Just like the Erasmus Commission, he has a political agenda. If anybody has done anything wrong, he can lay a charge and the matter can be heard in an open court - not by a politically biased commission."

Twenty-nine shacks are now unoccupied but 54 are occupied and to evict these families the city requires a court order.

"Meetings with the community in Hangberg, requests to vacate the land and to demolish illegal structures voluntarily, have been unsuccessful," said the city's spokesman, Kylie Hatton.

The shacks have been erected on a firebreak which, she said, was made to prevent mountain fires from spreading to homes.

According to Hatton, the occupation of the land is delaying the city's formal housing projects because the area has become too densely populated.

"The way to resolve this problem is to speak about it - guns won't resolve the problem," said Mdladlana.

"We have to come and sit down with people.

"That is how we achieved our freedom. Not through skop, skiet and donner."

- Times Live

Monday, September 27, 2010

'Charge Zille with genocide'

THE Congress of First Indigenous Leaders Royal administration wants Western Cape Premier Helen Zille dragged before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing "genocide in Hout Bay".

Khoi chief Nico Nel on Saturday accused Zille of "declaring a state of emergency and using excessive military force against Hangberg residents to force them off their land".

Nel said their lawyer was in the process of approaching the Western Cape high court to apply for an interdict to stop the city from demolishing 54 more occupied shacks in the area.

Apart from that, he said Zille should be charged with "terrorism and violence against humanity" at the ICC since the police used brute force against the residents.

Though life seemed to have returned to normal at the weekend, he said: "We are in a state of emergency in Hout Bay. People are not sleeping. They have to watch out to protect their community."

At least 15 metro police and city law enforcement members were injured and 62 residents arrested last week as community members resisted the dismantling of illegal shacks built up the slopes of Sentinel Hill.

Nel said no single resident would be forced out of the community because "we are the heritage, we are the indigenous people".

He accused Zille of applying apartheid laws and trying to evict Hangberg residents in order to "protect white interests".

Community leader Gregg Louw said Zille, who had "stepped out of line, should withdraw her troops and the eviction order, and re-establish communication with us".

"She knows who she should talk to in this community. What we are requesting is not unreasonable," Louw said.

City media manager Kylie Hatton said the police would maintain their visibility in the area to maintain law and order.

She said illegal shacks were demolished after residents had encroached on a firebreak.

The city would not withdraw its court application to demolish 54 occupied shacks since residents had invaded land earmarked for upgraded developments, she said.

- Sowetan

‘I lost my eye because of cops’

Three people have each lost an eye after they were shot by police during the Hout Bay riots last week.

The neighbourhood exploded after City officials started evicting squatters from the slopes of the Sentinel and Hangberg on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The area may have calmed down, but Delon Egypt, 22, still has a rubber bullet lodged in his head which doctors are hesitant to remove.

“I went to see what the commotion was about near Sentinel Primary, and while standing and watching, cops started shooting,” he says.

“There was no warning, they just shot at me and now I have a bullet in my head and doctors can’t remove it.

“They were there to demolish shacks, but they started shooting at innocent people.”

Auriol Cloete, 35, is also furious at cops after what happened to her.

“I have lost my eye because of the police. I will have a fake eye,” she says angrily.

Ikram Halim, 40, was helping children get out of the firing line when he was shot in the eye.

“The children didn’t know what to do at the time and I was trying to get them out of the way when the police started shooting,” says the fisherman.

“When I turned around, I saw a bullet coming straight to my eye, the rubber bullet fell out minutes later.”

Morris Adams, 29, is partially blind after being shot while cleaning his yard.

“They [cops] just came to my yard and shot at me and didn’t wait to see if I was injured or not,” he says.

Auriol says Helen Zille should remember the idiom, “An eye for an eye,” when thinking about Hout Bay.

“If I had seen her on that day I would have taken her eyes out,” says a boiling-mad Auriol.

Eyes lost to Metro Police rubber bullets

Hangberg resident Auriol Cloete made breakfast for her children, saw two of them off to school and felt proud as she sat in the house she had built for them.

Hours later the mother of four was partially blind, cowering on her bed, bleeding from the left eye, and screaming at her children to keep lying flat on the floor as police and residents clashed outside.

“My life changed for ever. I’ll never forget that day,” Cloete, 35, said on Sunday after attending a church service in Hangberg.

She was injured last Tuesday when violence broke out between residents and police who had entered the settlement to escort workers contracted by the City of Cape Town to demolish about 20 unoccupied dwellings erected illegally on a firebreak.

Residents threw rocks and petrol bombs and fired distress flares at officers who used rubber bullets in retaliation.

A rubber bullet hit Cloete in the left eye.

“I was standing in a flat. This big police truck was driving in the road above us. This policeman was shooting through a door in the top of the truck. I was shot. The bullet went straight into my eye. That moment I knew I lost my eye,” she said.

Cloete ran back into her house as it was too dangerous to try to get to an ambulance.

“I lay on my bed for four and a half hours without treatment. I was helpless. My children, aged two, five and seven, watched me. They could see my eyeball hanging out. They were too scared to come near me. I just shouted they must keep flat on the floor and not look outside,” she said, wiping tears from her right eye.

Later, she was taken to hospital with another resident, who was apparently also shot in the left eye, and who is now unable to see because his right eye has become infected.

As Cloete stood outside the church yesterday, a number of residents came to greet her and see how she was doing.

Others compared injuries from last week’s clashes.

A resident told her a third person was still in hospital as a rubber bullet lodged in his eye had not yet been removed.

Cloete, who worked whenever she could secure a job, has lived in Hangberg all her life and had spent more than R60 000 on a home for her children.

Yesterday she said she was worried because she did not know if it was one of at least 50 occupied structures the City of Cape Town was still trying to have demolished.

City spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said it might be known by tomorrow whether the courts would allow the demolitions.

Cloete said she was terrified further violence would break out if this happened.

“I’m very scared. My children are terrified. I want to still live here though. This is my community,” she said.

Cloete, currently unemployed, cried as she thought about how her life had changed since last week. “I can’t even pour water for myself. I can’t look after my children. I’m staying with my mother for now.”

She said she was considering lodging a complaint with the Independent Complaints Directorate about being shot. - Cape Times

Saturday, September 25, 2010

CNN - House made from Hemp

'You can't just move people out'

Urban warfare erupts in Hout Bay, Zille has to be escorted out as housing crisis boils over on the slopes of the Sentinel

Just two years ago the informal community of Hangberg in Cape Town was hailed a national success story - and adopted as a model for other cities.

But the shack-land project exploded this week into urban warfare reminiscent of apartheid, complete with petrol-bombs, rubber bullets and demolition.

Nearly a week after the first rocks rained down on police sent into the area, nobody is sure what went wrong.

"I don't know much about the apartheid years but to me this is exactly the same - it is taking us back," said resident Shanaaz Samaai.

At the heart of the tale of Hangberg is the slow pace of housing delivery. The Hangberg community lives on the slopes of one of Cape Town's best known mountain peaks, the Sentinel in Hout Bay. In recent years the community has outgrown the few blocks of council flats overlooking Hout Bay harbour.

When residents started building shacks on the mountain side above the flats a few years ago, the city council first objected, but later agreed to include the shacks in a ground-breaking "shack upgrade" plan - as long as no new shacks were built on the mountain side.

The Sunday Times is in possession of the city's Hangberg development plan which features new housing, an office park, a park and traffic calming measures.

But the project bogged down in red tape and was complicated by leadership tussles within Hangberg's impoverished community. City spokesman Kylie Hatton said: "There's an acceptance that these things are not easy to do, but this one unfortunately has dragged on for longer than it should have."

Because of the delays, many Hangberg residents upgraded their own shacks, and teamed together to create pathways and a park with a jungle gym.

Initially, the city council backed the project and advertised for two consultants to work on a combined shack and new housing layout plan. The Hangberg case study was presented at a national round-table discussion in Johannesburg on informal settlement upgrading, and the home-grown model was adopted in other cities.

But the dream project turned sour last year when a group of private investors put part of the Sentinel mountain on sale, prompting rumours that the housing project would never arrive. Since then several new shacks appeared on a firebreak "buffer zone" between Hangberg and the private land.

Western Cape premier Helen Zille visited the area last week to demand the removal of the new shacks but had to be escorted out of the area. Residents did not like her tone.

Three days later the police moved in to break down shacks built on the firebreak - and the battle for Hangberg began.

Some residents blame Zille for the ensuing chaos, which included injuries, some serious, on both sides. "They dragged me by my feet - I was treated like a bloody animal," said 52-year-old Fagmieda Samaai, whose daughter Shanaaz was also targeted by police. "This traumatised my whole family," Samaai said.

Many residents said Zille had declared war on the community by demolishing their shacks before providing new housing.

"(President Jacob) Zuma would never have talked to us that way," said a resident .

Zille this week sai d she was simply trying to speed up development: "I'm used to being a scapegoat. It doesn't bother me," she told the Sunday Times via e-mail. "Leadership requires tough decisions on matters of principle. I've worked in this community for years and I know that most people here want development. They do not want to be held hostage by a minority that wants to block progress."

The stand-off appears headed for court, where the competing rights of landowners and homeless residents will be weighed.

The Western Cape housing backlog of more than 400,000 units is increasing at close to 18,000 a year, according to latest estimates.

Policy experts warn that the conflict is symptomatic of growing impatience with a lack of decent housing as millions continue to stream into the country's major cities. They said apartheid had shown the danger of criminalising communities rather than treating them as development partners.

Said Hangberg community spokesman Greg Louw: "You can't just move people out of this environment - it is unrealistic."

- TimesLive

Friday, September 24, 2010

Residents in 'housing corruption' protest

THE Philippi People's Forum yesterday brought the streets of Gugulethu, Cape Town, to a standstill with a march against corruption in housing delivery.

More than 1000 residents of Philippi's informal settlements chanted "Enough is enough", "Phantsi ngetyotyombe, phezulu ngezindlu", "Houses first, corruption last" as they marched on the Fezeka municipal offices in Gugulethu. Forum chairperson Eric Notana said they wanted the Western Cape government to urgently allocate them land.

"There are no plans for squatter camps in Philippi. That means we will stay in shacks for another 16 years," he told Sowetan.

Notana said the issue of privately owned land standing empty needs to be "resolved rapidly".

"The ANC provincial government had already identified land for the residents of Philippi, but when the current government came in they withdrew everything," he said.

Noncendo Naphakade of the Thabo Mbeki informal settlement said the problem was that the government did not respect people who live in informal settlements.

Khuselwa Tyala demanded that Cape Town mayor Dan Plato come and address their grievances.

City of Cape Town communications officer at the Fezeka municipal offices Chris Khatshwa received the residents' memorandum. Khatshwa promised to give it to Plato.

- Sowetan

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cosatu rallies behind 'squatters'

COSATU Western Cape shopstewards have rallied behind the community of Hangberg in Hout Bay, whose shacks were demolished by police on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people have been living on the prime real estate overlooking the ocean, some for 22 years. But the city now says their shacks are illegal.

Yesterday, charges were dropped against most of the 58 Hangberg residents who were arrested for "public violence" on Tuesday.

At a packed Cape Town City Hall last night, Hout Bay community activist Fred Martin told about 500 shopstewards from different Cosatu unions that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille did not want to meet them to explain why a planned housing project had been delayed for more than three years.

"She came as a dictator and said what she wanted to say," said Martin, who added that the shack-dwellers had lost thousands of rands when their homes were torn down.

Martin said: "I spent at least R45000 on my place, and they tore it down."

He said Zille was suddenly spreading rumours, after police had already destroyed the shacks, that Hangberg residents needed to be removed because they were selling drugs.

Shopstewards voted to support the community.

Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the national government must "send in the army to protect innocent civilians".

"We can see there is enough land in Hout Bay. Every day new mansions go up but when there is a request by the poor, there is suddenly no land," said Ehrenreich.

Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi had been billed as a speaker but instead stayed in Durban to lead Cosatu delegation at the ANC national general council meeting.

- Sowetan

Shack dwellers say no to eviction

ANGRY Hangberg residents in Hout Bay have accused Premier Helen Zille of declaring martial law and using brute force to try and evict them from the land.

Hangberg , which is on the slopes of Sentinel mountain, looked like a war zone yesterday, with hundreds of armed police camping around the area.

Community members, mostly fishermen, said they could not go out to the sea since they feared police harassment.

They complained that children had been traumatised after witnessing law-enforcement officers bring down 17 shacks using electric chain saws.

Fifteen police officers and five residents were injured when clashes broke out on Tuesday.

A resident, John Doe, said: "It's martial law. The police don't want us to walk around. They were stopping buses and taxis in the morning.

"We now cannot walk freely. We don't know what is coming next. People don't know what to do. They are afraid to go to work.

"We have to catch fish to earn a living but now we can't. On Tuesday we fought with police to protect our houses for six hard hours. We are still prepared to die for our land, it's our heritage."

Kevin Davids, a community leader, said his people refused to be removed to Blikkiesdorp, "which is like a Vietnam concentration camp".

He said they were ready to protect their homes, after the city had applied for a court order to demolish 54 occupied shacks.

Davids accused Zille of being arrogant by trying to evict people without offering them an alternative.

"We are asking Zille to come back here with a solution and not a problem. We belong here. We are going to die here. This is our home," he said.

Davids said in August last year they had prevented the Sentinel mountain from being auctioned to some of the richest people in the world.

"We heard that Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey wanted to buy our land and protested.

"Hellen Zille is bringing war to us. Our people are not violent, they don't have guns. We are a peaceful community," Davids said.

Doe, who took Sowetan deep into the community, said the heavy police presence was creating the impression that "we are inbred, barbaric and don't have brains".

The city said the shacks they destroyed had encroached on the firebreak area and nature reserve.

"We have been here for 20 years. They (city) want to take this place because it is prime land and offers the best view of Hout Bay harbour," Doe said.

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that charges of public violence against 40 of the 58 Hangberg, Hout Bay, residents were withdrawn in the Wynberg magistrate's court yesterday.

Seventeen other residents were released on warning, while one was discharged because he could not be linked to the alleged crime, Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch said.

Cosatu in the Western Cape described the arrest of the residents as a "war against poor people by the DA".

But, DA-run City of Cape Town spokesperson Kylie Hatton insisted that all the shacks that were demolished had no people living in them.

- Sowetan

Sentinel battle involves drug cartel?

Police and the city's anti-land invasion unit clashed with Hangberg residents for the second day, as residents tried to stop authorities from dismantling shacks on a firebreak on the slopes of the Sentinel.

Officials said a shack had been built overnight after the city had dismantled 29 unoccupied shacks on Tuesday.

A few rocks and at least one flare were thrown at police and the city employees this morning. Police responded by firing rubber bullets. The morning was punctuated with sporadic stone throwing from residents and rubber bullets being shot by police. The only injury reported was a metro police who was hit in the face with the flare. Police also took at least two more people into custody.

On Wednesday, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille claimed that a major drug and crime cartel operated on the mountain, adding that the cartel was behind the violence.

She said this cartel wanted to prevent the development of the area as development would mean there would be road access up the mountain to its hideout. She was speaking at a Western Cape cabinet meets business meeting.

For three years they had tried to upgrade the Hangberg community and it had been difficult because there was so much drug and alcohol abuse, Zille said.

Yesterday, various community organisations said that for more than a decade nothing had been done to build houses for the homeless people of Hout Bay.

"For all these years, the leaders in the community have been able to sway people not to build on the land in question. The City of Cape Town's reluctance to address the housing problem in Hout Bay has frustrated the residents. Now the people's patience is running out," they said.

On Tuesday, authorities were able to dismantle only 29 shacks after a battle between Hangberg residents and the police, metro police and city law enforcement officers. Police were pelted with rocks, flares, and petrol bombs.

Police fired at the mob with rubber bullets and arrested 62 people. At least 15 metro police and city law enforcement officers were treated for cuts and bruises.

Last night, the showdown moved to Hout Bay police station, where hundreds of people protested, demanding the release of the 62. People from the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement joined the Hangberg residents' protest.

Police later released seven people. Fifty-five people were to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court today on charges of public violence.

Minutes before the 55 were expected to appear, four minibus taxis crammed with pupils arrived at the court. The children, some brandishing steel poles and banners, jumped from the taxis to protest outside the court.

"We were supposed to write exams yesterday but couldn't because our school was closed," said one pupil. "It's closed again today because of the violence and police are blocking the streets."

There was confusion over which court the 55 would appear in. At the time of going to press, magistrate Goolam Bawa adjourned for a break to clear up the confusion.

The Western Cape Education Department closed Hout Bay High School and Sentinel Primary yesterday and today.

Bronagh Casey, spokesperson for Education MEC Donald Grant said preliminary exams at Hout Bay Secondary had to be postponed again. She said the school had opened today but closed again because of low attendance and safety concerns. The exams would now be written during the holidays. She said Sentinel Primary was open but many pupils were absent.

On Tuesday night, police officers deployed from other areas guarded the entrance to the police station, preventing the protesters from entering.

Relatives of those arrested milled around the premises.

Quinton Mento said he was trying to get information about his 19-year-old daughter who had been detained. He is among the 54 families facing an uncertain future after the city indicated it would seek an eviction order for families occupying shacks on the Sentinel.

He said he had lived on the Sentinel's slopes for 22 years, and in Hout Bay for 47 years.

"There is no way they are going to make us move. If they come with force again, we will have to do what we did today. We will never let them do this. Zille has declared war on us."

If the government failed to give them proper housing, it had no right to evict them, he said.

City of Cape Town spokeswoman Kylie Hatton confirmed that 29 "unoccupied" homes had been demolished. The city had first indicated 17 buildings had been demolished. It then revised this figure to 20. The city would seek eviction orders for the 54 occupied homes still standing on the firebreak on the Sentinel's slopes.

The Hangberg residents also attacked the Panorama Hill complex, an upmarket block of flats at the entrance to Hangberg, damaging windows and several vehicles parked in the complex, as they pelted the building with rocks.

- Cape Times

Hout Bay residents back down

Cape Town - Hangberg residents in Hout Bay stopped attacking police after three more of their members were arrested for public violence on Wednesday morning, Western Cape police said.

"That [violence] is finished now and three people were arrested," said Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch.

Police arrested 58 people on Tuesday when they allegedly attacked them for dismantling their illegal shacks.

The residents were expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday on charges of public violence.

Meanwhile, 702 Talk Radio reported that relatives and friends of the residents hadgathered outside the court in support.

However, after being told they did not have permission to protest outside the court, the residents moved away, but returned when school children arrived to protest community issues.

The radio station reported that police struggled to disperse the protesters and blocked off the road in front of the court while trying to reason with the pupils.

The residents accused police, who were on the scene on Tuesday, of brutality and demand that Mayor Dan Plato and Western Cape premier Helen Zille step down.

- Sapa

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Zille has declared war on us’

Police and the city’s anti-land invasion unit clashed with Hangberg residents for the second day, as residents tried to stop authorities from dismantling shacks on a firebreak on the slopes of the Sentinel.

Officials on the scene said a shack had been built overnight after the city had dismantled 29 unoccupied shacks on Tuesday.

A few rocks were thrown at police and the city employees on Wednesday morning. Police responded by firing rubber bullets. By around 8.30am, the situation was calm.

A statement issued late on Tuesday by a number of community organisation said nothing had been done for more than a decade to have houses built for the homeless people of Hout Bay.

“For all these years the leaders in the community have been able to sway people not to build on the land in question. The City of Cape Town’s reluctance to address the housing problem in Hout Bay has frustrated the residents.

“Now the people’s patience is running out,” read the statement.

On Tuesday, authorities were only able to dismantle the 29 shacks after a battle between Hangberg residents and the police, metro police and city law enforcement officers. Police were pelted with rocks, flares, and petrol bombs.

Police fired at the mob with rubber bullets and arrested 62 suspects.

At least 15 metro police and city law enforcement officers were treated for cuts and bruises.

On Tuesday night, the showdown moved to the Hout Bay police station, where hundreds of people protested, demanding the release of the 62. People from the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement joined the Hangberg residents’ protest.

Police later released seven people.

Fifty-six people are scheduled to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on charges of public violence. They spent the night in holding cells at the Wynberg police station, said police.

On Tuesday night, police officers deployed from other areas guarded the entrance to the police station, preventing the protesters from entering.

Relatives of those arrested milled around the police station premises, some still in pyjamas.
Quinton Mento said he was trying to get information about his 19-year-old daughter who had been detained since 11am.

Mento is among the 54 families facing an uncertain future after the city indicated it would seek an eviction order for those families occupying shacks on the Sentinel.

He said he had lived on the Sentilel’s slopes for 22 years, and in Hout Bay for 47 years.

“There is no way they are going to make us move. If they come with force again, we will have to do what we did today. We will never stand still and let them do this. (Premier Helen) Zille has declared war on us,” said Mento.

He added that if the government failed to provide them with proper housing, it had no right to evict them.

City of Cape Town spokeswoman Kylie Hatton confirmed that 29 “unoccupied” homes were demolished yesterday. The city had first indicated 17 buildings had been demolished. It then revised this figure to 20.

She said the city would ask the court for eviction orders for the 54 occupied homes still standing on the firebreak on the Sentinal’s slopes. Hatton said that when the anti-invasion unit had, on other occasions, tried to demolish illegal structures, they had been met with violent resistance.

During a community meeting yesterday afternoon, leaders made a call for calm. One of them, Greg Louw, condemned the “brutality” of the clashes.

Louw said all the Hangberg residents wanted was to talk to the government and ask for services. The Western Cape Education Department closed Hout Bay High School and Sentinel Primary yesterday. Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said matrics at Hout Bay High were to have written their maths and maths literacy exams but this had been cancelled because of the disruptions in the area.

They were scheduled to write the exams today, she said.

Throughout the day residents exchanged stories of how they had been injured, showing off bruises where they were shot in the thigh or on their torsos.

One man was hit on his hand and a woman’s head was bleeding.

People shared stories of neighbours who had been shot in the face and on their genitals.

The Hangberg residents also attacked the Panorama Hill complex, an up-market block of flats erected at the entrance to Hangberg, damaging almost all the windows and several vehicles parked in the complex, as they pelted the building with rocks.

Once enforcement officers retreated, Hangberg residents began to throw stones at the Diamond Discount Liquor store and one residents flung a petrol bomb at the gates of the shop.

Police dispersed the crowd and doused the flames before the fire spread.

By lunchtime, after the chaos had subsided, the city’s cleansing department moved in to clear the remnants of the battle.

Hatton said 15 city law enforcement officers and Metro police were injured, suffering mostly bruises or lacerations to their ankles, legs, hands or faces from the rocks that were hurled at them.

One officer was admitted to hospital after a rock hit him in the face.
The officer was escorted down the hill with blood streaming down his face.

- Cape Argus

Hout Bay protesters to appear in court

A group of 56 people were expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday following violent protests in Hout Bay, Western Cape police said.

“At this stage, all is quiet in Hout Bay but it is still tense,” said Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch.

Eighteen people were injured in clashes between metro police and civilians in Hout Bay on Tuesday.

Violence broke out when community members clashed with metro police as the City of Cape Town dismantled illegal structures in the area.

Some 15 metro officers were injured when residents allegedly threw stones at them. The police retaliated by firing rubber bullets, injuring three civilians.

The police took 62 people in for questioning on Tuesday and decided to bring charges of public violence against 56 of them.

“The 56 people are appearing in court today (Wednesday),” said Lesch. - Sapa

Chaos reigns as residents and cops clash

After a day of violence in Hangberg in which 18 people were injured and 62 residents were arrested, the City of Cape Town is taking a tough stance and drafting legal papers to have the remaining 52 illegal structures demolished through a court order.

The violence broke out after metro police officers arrived in Hangberg ahead of contract workers who were to enter the settlement to remove about 20 shacks that had been illegally built on a firebreak. By law, the city does not require a court order to demolish unoccupied structures, but needs one if the shacks are occupied.

The city had initially said it would remove only 17 “unoccupied” structures, but ended up demolishing more than 20.

Greg Louw of the Hout Bay Civic Association said the city had acted illegally and had no right to demolish any structures.

“There’s no court order. Nothing has been issued. These people have to give us proof,” said an angry Louw.

Last night, police were keeping a close eye on the tense Hangberg community in Hout Bay. Officers spent the night monitoring the area.

The situation escalated to such an extent yesterday that officers urgently ordered extra ammunition. Rubber bullets, in a bulging packet and boxes, arrived during the chaos. Scores of extra police officers were also called in.

Residents had apparently been prepared for yesterday’s action and positioned themselves on a slope above the only entrance to the settlement, where they clashed with police.

The residents threw rocks, stones, bricks, smoke grenades and petrol bombs at officers and fired distress flares at them.

Police fired rubber bullets at the residents and dragged those they caught down the slopes of the mountain and put them in police vans. Hout Bay police spokeswoman Tanya Lesch said more than 300 law enforcement personnel had been called to the scene.

Fifteen officers were injured and three residents reported being injured. Some photographers and reporters were hit by rubber bullets and stones during the clashes.

Lesch said that 62 residents arrested on suspicion of public violence were expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court today.

During the clashes yesterday residents threw rocks at an upmarket block of flats, Panorama Hills, breaking windows. Residents of the flats had to be escorted out.

At first a smaller group of officers had positioned themselves at the base of the slope on which the scores of residents were gathered.

But the residents, throwing stones and rocks and carrying planks, ran down towards them, causing the officers to flee.

“S***. Run. Run. We need more ammo. We need more officers!” one shouted wildly as he ran.

As another officer was running away from the approaching group, a rock hit her on her mouth. Another police officer was injured in the legs and was unable to walk. Colleagues had to carry her, as they tried to duck the shower of rocks while running towards an awaiting car. Further up the road more injured police officers sat or lay on the side of the road. “I’m in pain,” an officer with injured legs moaned.

Police managed to prevent the group of residents from storming down the road by firing a continuous hail of rubber bullets at them.

Two police Nyalas then blocked the entrance of the settlement. As more Nyalas entered the settlement, residents, some using doors as shields, threw rocks at the armoured vehicles and officers fired rubber bullets at them.

The residents then dispersed.

Felicity Jacobs, 51, a resident, cried as she described how she was shot in the head with a rubber bullet. Blood stained her pink top and a clinic card, which was tucked into her pocket. “I went to the clinic, but it was closed because of this, so I went to my brother’s house. I was sitting at the window when this thing just smashed through and hit my head. I just felt the warm blood. People aren’t safe in their own homes any more. I’ve lived here for 10 years. I’m not part of this, but I’m hurt,” Jacobs said.

Crying children could be seen peering from windows, pointing at armed police officers standing in the road below the settlement.

Soon afterwards, the residents again converged on the slope and started pelting officers with rocks and firing flares, which caused the points where they landed to catch alight.

As officers ducked for cover behind their shields, flares could be heard and seen whizzing by. A police van pulled up with a screech, and another injured officer, appearing dazed, with blood dripping from his mouth, was carried to it.

“F***. This is out of control,” a policeman muttered.

Eventually scores of officers in full riot gear managed to make their way into the settlement.

This caused a number of residents to flee on to the slopes of the Sentinel. The officers ran after them and a fire then broke out on the mountain. Residents claimed police started the fire to drive suspects they were chasing out of the area, but officers said residents started it. Thick orange flames quickly spread before being brought under control.

More officers escorted a group of contract workers to the area where the structures to be dismantled were located.

“You’re murderers. You can’t do this to us,” residents shouted at the officers as they walked by.

The violence eventually died down after the structures were dismantled, but the residents again gathered on the slopes of the settlement and threw a petrol bomb into a liquor store below.

Officers again fired rubber bullets at them and quickly doused the flames caused by the bomb.

Residents told the Cape Times they would stop the violence if the police left.

- Cape Times

The city is lying, say frustrated residents

Lee-Anne Abrahams lives with 11 relatives in her small house in Hangberg. She has lived in the area for four decades. Like many other residents, she is unemployed and in desperate need of a house.

She lives with her four children and five grandchildren in a structure built between the council rental flats: "No one ever comes here. They only make us empty promises. I've lived here for more than 40 years. I'm 46 years old, so I grew up here."

She said no housing plan had been forthcoming from authorities and unemployment made it worse: "Only the foreigners get houses and they build townhouses right next to us. They (City of Cape Town) chase us away and tell us this is their place," said Abrahams.

Her son, Eugene Abrahams, said a lack of communication was a major problem. He had never seen the area's ward councillor, Marga Haywood.

"Haywood only goes to the white people in Hout Bay. She's the mayor of Hout Bay, and here in Hangberg, people don't even know her. She's done nothing for us," said Abrahams.

Greg Louw of the Hout Bay Civic Association said authorities were spreading lies when they said residents were delaying development.

"The city lies and the premier is lying.

"We had meetings and all we want is a commitment that will restore and start development in Hangberg," said Louw.

Timothy Jacobs of the ANC regional task team said violence and the demolition of structures would not solve the problem: "The ANC condemns all forms of violence. We can't go back to apartheid."

Jacobs said the city had allowed more townhouses to be built in the historically white part of Hout Bay than in Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg combined.

The reason the Democratic Alliance had won the ward was because of "racist tactics" that divided the black and coloured communities of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg, he said.

"No one is obstructing anything. This is a city initiative, (so) why isn't (mayor) Dan Plato here?" asked Jacobs.

- Cape Times

Police battle illegal shack dwellers

An informal settlement overlooking Cape Town's Hout Bay harbour turned into a war zone yesterday as Western Cape police fought hundreds of furious rioters.

The battle broke out at about 6.30am when police and demolition crews, ordered to knock down 29 illegally erected shacks, encountered barricades on the way into the Hangberg informal settlement on the slopes of Sentinel mountain.

The rioters pelted the police with rocks, flares and petrol bombs. The police retaliated by firing hundreds of rubber bullets.

Running battles ensu ed between the residents and 300 officers backed by six armoured vehicles .

Mariam Samaai, 19, sobbed as she told of how her mother and two younger sisters, aged 13 and 17, were dragged from their home by police: "[They] kicked the door and dragged my mummy out."

At a community meeting two weeks ago, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was jeered as she said illegal structures built on the mountain's firebreak and nature reserve would be removed.

She told The Times yesterday that the city spent R8-million buying land in the area for housing.

- The Times

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Battle at Sentinel Mountain: 62 arrested

Sixty-two people were arrested after 18 people were injured in a clash between metro police and civilians in Hout Bay on Tuesday morning, Western Cape police said.

Of those injured, 15 were metro police officers and three were civilians, said Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch.

Violence broke out when community members clashed with metro police as the City of Cape Town dismantled illegal structures in the area on Tuesday morning.

The city's land invasion unit was in Hangberg at 6.30am to remove structures built in the firebreak near Hangklip, which was a significant fire danger to local residents, the city's spokesperson Kylie Hatton told Sapa.

"Community members who were unhappy with the dismantling of the shacks, built between Hangberg and the Sentinel Mountain, started throwing stones at the city's officials and law enforcement officers, hurting 15 metro police officers."

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Twenty-nine unoccupied illegal structures were demolished.

Hatton said the city would need a court interdict to remove occupied structures in the area. It planned to apply for the court order to remove all illegal structures in the area.

"The structures are built on the slopes of the Sentinel, a world heritage site. People just started building illegally here and the area is not safe for them as it is a firebreak."

The situation had calmed down at 4pm but police continued to monitor the area, said Lesch.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions condemned the violence, calling it an attack by the Western Cape government on the people of Hout Bay.

"The attack on the poor community of Hout Bay is nothing new and is similar to the attack we have seen at Imizamo Yethu informal settlement," Tony Ehrenreich said in a statement.

"Cosatu believes that a negotiated solution can be found...The high-handed action we are seeing now from government is typical of Democratic Alliance."

Ehrenreich said the DA had in the past promised the "rich white community" of Hout Bay that they would act in their interest.

Cosatu was going to defend the people of Hout Bay against "this war" on the poor.

"[We] are going out there now to see how we can help the people of Hout Bay to secure their homes." - Sapa

Residents question legality of Hout Bay removals

Metro police left Hout Bay after officers and the City of Cape Town demolished 23 unoccupied structures on the Sentinel Hill on Tuesday.

There were concerns that the shacks posed a public safety risk as they were erected in a fire break meant to protect the Hangberg community.

The arrival of the demolition team sparked violent clashes on Tuesday morning.

The community resembled a war zone and at least 15 law enforcement officials were injured.

The fire set by angry residents on the Sentinel Hill was brought under control and the situation at the settlement had calmed down by midday.

More than 35 people have been arrested.

Meanwhile, residents of Hangberg questioned the legality of attempts to evict the informal settlers.

Hout Bay Aboriginal Korana Council spokesperson John Reid accused the authorities of behaving inhumanely.

“The city and the police had no right to come into this community and forcefully hurt innocent people and arrest them just to get their way. No notification has been served to us that they plan to [remove the shacks]," he said.

- Eyewitness News

Squatters refuse to make way for hotel

SHACK dwellers of a Cape Town informal settlement with a magnificent view of the sea say they will not move until they get decent houses.

The controversial camp in upmarket Bo-Kaap, situated at the foot of Signal Hill, offers a magnificent view of the city centre, Green Point Stadium and the harbour.

The camp has been there for more than 12 years, but now the squatters have accused the local imam of colluding with city authorities to kick them out and build a Muslim hotel on the land.

Camp leader Kenny Prins said his people would resist being moved to the temporary relocation area of Blikkiesdorp in Delft, about 28km from the city centre.

"These people won't survive in Blikkiesdorp. They need a decent place in the city centre," Prins said.

"We have a hotel for Arabs on Wales Street just near us, which should be enough. We won't move."

He accused the city of trying to take over the area because "it offers the best view of the city".

He said when the ANC was in charge of the province they got electricity and toilets, "but the current DA government has done nothing to improve our situation".

Prins said there were 24 shacks in the camp, and about 150 people living there.

Keyammondien Dalwai from Manenberg said he was worried about his sister who lived in the camp with her four little children.

"Keep them in Bo-Kaap. I feel hurt by this," he said.

DA ward councillor Belinda Hawker said the Imam at the mosque had proposed enlarging the mosque in order to accommodate more people.

Later, she said, he changed and applied to build a hotel for Muslim visitors from abroad. His proposal has not yet been approved as it has to be advertised widely, she said.

Hawker also said that a heritage study was currently being conducted on the site to determine whether any developments were suited for the site.

If the squatters were to be moved that would be in line with the government's housing policies, she said.

"The Bo-Kraal community is not under threat at all," she said.

- Sowetan

Metro cops injured in Hout Bay violence

Fifteen metro police officers were injured when Hout Bay residents threw stones at them as the City of Cape Town dismantled illegal structures in the area on Tuesday morning, a municipal spokesperson said.

The city's land invasion unit was in Hangberg at 6.30am to remove structures built in the firebreak near Hangklip, which was a significant fire danger to local residents, Kylie Hatton said.

"Community members who were unhappy with the dismantling of the shacks, built between Hangberg and the Sentinel Mountain, started throwing stones at the city's officials and law enforcement officers. Fifteen metro police officers were injured."

Twenty-three unoccupied structures were demolished. The city would need a court interdict to remove occupied structures in the area. It planned to apply for the court order to remove all illegal structures in the area.

"The structures are built on the slopes of the Sentinel, a world heritage site. People just started building illegally here and the area is not safe for them as it is a firebreak."

All access roads to Hout Bay were closed in the morning following the unrest.

Police managed to calm the situation down. At noon, police were still in the area.

- Sapa

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shacks destroyed by fire

Residents of Montague Village Heights near Lavender Hill scrambled to save their belongings as a fire broke out in the informal settlement last night. At least five shacks were burnt to the ground, a resident of the area said. Resident Austin Kriel said the fire started about 8pm and ar least three fire trucks were on the scene. A fire department official confirmed that firefighters had been sent out.

- Cape Times

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Khayelitsha Backyarders threaten MEC with a march

The Khayelitsha Backyarders are threatening protest action if Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela does not meet with them soon.

He was supposed to attend a meeting earlier in the week to share his plans on the construction of houses for residents in the informal settlement.

However, he did not make the meeting and the Backyarders’ Loyiso Mfuku said the association’s members will march if he does not sit with them soon.

“It’s better for us to inform the community that a march is the only remedy. It is indeed the only remedy before us before we can take further steps,” he said.

- Eyewitness News

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Angry crowd gives Zille the finger

A crowd of angry Hout Bay residents shouted down Premier Helen Zille, gave her the middle finger and then came close to lunging at her on Friday night at a rowdy community meeting to discuss housing.

Police had to form a human chain to protect Zille and mayor Dan Plato from the crowd. The meeting lasted 30 minutes before Zille was whisked away.

The meeting was held with residents of Hangberg - a poor community living above Hout Bay harbour - to discuss the illegal erection of informal structures on the Sentinel, a world heritage site.

The 500-odd residents who attended the meeting in the Hangberg Sports Complex turned hostile towards Zille 10 minutes after the meeting started.

The hall has no stage and Zille and Plato were separated from the gathering only by a lectern. As the mood darkened, people stood up and gesticulated wildly, made threatening gestures and inched closer to Zille and Plato.

Police officers then formed a human chain to prevent some in the audience from getting to Zille.

Before the meeting police had searched every person for weapons with a metal detector.

The meeting began fairly calmly after 6pm, but when the premier raised the matter of demolishing the illegal structures the gathering turned hostile.

The trouble started after Zille said that the land invaders should demolish their own structures, but when they loudly declined to do so, she said the authorities would "break them down".

As the gathering became rowdier, Zille took a hard stance, threatening to scrap a City of Cape Town upgrade that had been on the cards for Hangberg for three years.

She said that although the provincial government was keen to go ahead with the project, it could not do so until the illegal structures had been demolished.

She accused residents of "not holding up their end of the deal" because they had not yet formed a representative committee and had erected informal structures on Hangberg's firebreak and the Sentinel nature reserve despite requests not to do so.

"We've got the message loud and clear," she said. "You don't want to stand by your side of the agreement and you clearly don't want the development, so we will walk away from it."

With the audience in an uproar, Zille struggled to be heard.

Community leaders tried to urge the audience to calm down, but this only fuelled their anger.

A South African Communist Party leader in Hout Bay, Barry Mitchell, had to be restrained when he tried to speak to the crowd.

"There is no point in continuing this meeting because nobody can be heard," said Zille, barely audible over the commotion. "I'm afraid we are now going to have to draw the line."

With that, Zille left, followed by Plato and her entourage, and was whisked out by a back entrance.

Residents fumed as they left the meeting, saying they had not been given a chance to speak.

Community leaders criticised Zille after the meeting, saying she had not come to listen to the community's concerns, but rather "dictate" what would happen in Hangberg. "You can't come into a community with a BMW, bodyguards and a large contingent of police," said Mitchell. "The premier speaks, but she doesn't give an opportunity for the voices of the community to be heard."

Another community representative, Kevin Davids, said Zille was only infuriating people further.

And he warned that if the authorities arrived on Monday to demolish the shacks, "there will be trouble".

"When they come to break down people's homes, there will be trouble. We're will burn tyres, we will fight the police, we will not allow them to break down our people's homes," he said.

The role players plan to meet again tomorrow to discuss the way forward.

- Cape Argus

Friday, September 17, 2010

Low Carbon Hemp House Put to the Test

Used to make paper, clothing and car body panels, hemp could also be used to build environmentally-friendly homes of the future say researchers at the University of Bath.

A consortium, led by the BRE (Building Research Establishment) Centre for Innovative Construction Materials based at the University, has constructed a small building on the Claverton campus out of hemp-lime to test its properties as a building material.

Called the "HemPod," this one-storey building has highly insulating walls made from the chopped woody core, or shiv, of the industrial hemp plant mixed with a specially developed lime-based binder.

The hemp shiv traps air in the walls, and the hemp itself is porous, making the walls incredibly well insulated. The lime-based binder sticks together and protects the hemp and makes the building material highly fire resistant.

The industrial hemp plant takes in carbon dioxide as it grows, and the lime render absorbs even more of the climate change gas, effectively giving the building an extremely low carbon footprint.

Dr Mike Lawrence, Research Officer from the University's Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, explained: "Whilst there are already some houses in the UK built using hemp and lime, the HemPod will be the first hemp-lime building to be constructed purely for scientific testing.

"We will be closely monitoring the house for 18 months using temperature and humidity sensors buried in the walls, measuring how quickly heat and water vapour travels through them.

"The walls are breathable and act as a sort of passive air-conditioning system, meaning that the internal humidity is kept constant and the quality of the air within the house is very good. The walls also have a 'virtual thermal mass' because of the remarkable pore structure of hemp shiv combined with the properties of the lime binder, which means the building is much more thermally efficient and the temperature inside the house stays fairly constant."

Professor Pete Walker, Director of the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, added: "The aim of the project is to provide some robust data to persuade the mainstream building industry to use this building material more widely.

"Hemp grows really quickly; it only takes the area the size of a rugby pitch to grow enough hemp in three months to build a typical three-bedroom house.

"Using renewable crops to build houses can also provide economic benefits to rural areas by opening up new agricultural markets. Farmers can grow hemp during the summer as a break crop between their main food crops, it doesn't need much water and can be grown organically.

"Every part of the plant can be used, so there's no waste -- the shiv is used for building, the fibres can make car panels, clothing or paper, and the seeds can be used for food or oil. So it's a very efficient, renewable material
"Lime has been used in construction for millennia, and combining it with industrial hemp is a significant development in the effort to make construction more sustainable."

Environmentally-friendly building materials are often more expensive than traditional materials, but the Renewable House project ( funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) demonstrated a cost of around £75,000 (excluding foundations) to build a three-bedroom Code 4 house from hemp-lime making it competitive with conventional bricks and mortar.

The project is sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) under the Renewable Materials LINK Programme, and brings together a team of nine partners comprising: University of Bath, BRE Ltd, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Hanson UK, Hemp Technology, Lhoist Group, Lime Technology, the NNFCC and Wates Living Space.

- ScienceDaily

Sexwale's silence

BHEKI Cele recently justified his new R4 million house in Pretoria on the grounds that “If the head of Interpol visits me I don’t want him to find me living in a shack.” He’s not the only one of us who would prefer not to be living in a shack irrespective of who’s likely to be popping around for a cup of coffee. But the money spent on his house could have paid for houses for hundreds of shack dwellers and neither the incredible inequalities in our society, nor the ever more predatory and extravagant excesses of the politicians elected to ameliorate those inequalities, are passing unnoticed.

Along with unemployment, the housing crisis is one of the major social fractures producing the unstable and diverse political ferment at the base of our society. An increase in the housing subsidy was a central demand in the recent strike by public sector workers, housing has been a major issue in many of the local rebellions, the demand for decent housing is central to the struggles of most of the major poor people’s movements and it was often a key factor in the xenophobic pogroms of May 2008.

The African National Congress has built a lot of houses in South Africa. This fact is usually among the first to be deployed in defence of its record, but we shouldn’t be blind to the reality that states often build houses as part of a project of social control rather than social justice.

In the 1970s, the military dictatorships in Brazil and Chile found huge house-building programmes to be crucial strategies for securing their rule by simultaneously achieving the spatial exclusion and fragmentation of the poor and their precarious economic inclusion via home ownership. And, of course, we should recall that there was a time when the apartheid state was building houses at one of the most frenzied rates in the world.

These authoritarian projects couldn’t be more different to, say, the housing co-operative movements that developed out of radical political movements in parts of Europe and have produced collectively owned and managed as well as well located and designed housing projects.

One of the many reasons the anti-political language of “delivery” is so damaging to any attempt to think about the human realities of society is that it masks the fact that housing is an inherently political question. What constitutes a decent house, its location, its design, the mode of its construction, the nature of the space in which it is set, who gets to access the house and on what basis, and who gets to decide all of this are all deeply political questions.

The evasion of the politics of housing by the ANC in favour of the convenient fiction that resolving the housing crisis is solely a technical question of efficient “delivery” from above has largely resulted in very small and often badly constructed houses on the peripheries of cities. In many cases RDP houses have been built on land that the apartheid state had first acquired to build new townships and the immediate visible difference between apartheid and post-apartheid townships is often the sobering fact that houses built after apartheid are a lot smaller. The allocation of houses and of the contracts to build them has routinely been driven by political patronage rather than considerations of justice or efficiency.

The housing policy of the first post-apartheid government was negotiated in 1993 and drew on the subsidy system pioneered by the confluence of local fascism and American imperialism that brought the Pinochet dictatorship to power in Chile. A decade after the end of apartheid there was some recognition that the subsidy system was resulting in a replication of apartheid-style townships in peripheral ghettos and in 2004, a better policy framework was introduced in the form of Breaking New Ground. However, across the country there was a systematic failure to implement the substantive content of the new policy that recommends and makes financial provision for participatory and collective in-situ upgrades, instead of forced removals to peripheral dumping grounds.

It’s not just policy that was ignored. In some parts of the country municipalities have routinely acted towards the poor in ways that are unlawful and, in strict legal terms, criminal. This has included unlawful and often violent evictions, demolitions, forced removals and repression of poor people’s organisations.

One of the reasons for the contradiction between the law and formal policy positions on the one hand, and the altogether more grim reality of state action on the other, was that for some years key figures in the national political elite promoted an anti-poor discourse about “clearing” or “eradicating slums” that had, in practice, considerably more influence on state officials and much of civil society than the formal policy and legal commitments to which the state is bound in principle.

The date by which the slums would be cleared was first set at 2010 and then moved to 2014. This was a denialist fantasy on a grand scale but the eradication agenda, led by Lindiwe Sisulu and backed by both Thabo Mbeki and the Polokwane Resolutions, had very real costs. It resulted in the state increasingly responding to squatting as a security issue rather than a popular and entirely rational response to the housing crisis. Evictions escalated and considerable force was deployed to stop new land occupations and the expansion of existing shack settlements.

Another reason for the contradiction between the reality of state action and its formal legal and policy commitments is that while elite interests were well organised to pressure the party, from inside and from outside, there was no organised national popular movement that could, as was possible in the 1980s, exert a countervailing pressure from below.

The eradication agenda came to a head with the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act, which sought to give it legal sanction and was supposed to be replicated around the country. It was overturned in the Constitutional Court in October 2009 and within months there was a clear shift in the discourse of the state away from eradication and towards an acceptance of the real scale of the urban crisis.

Unlike Lindiwe Sisulu, Tokyo Sexwale’s Ministry openly acknowledges that at the current rate at which it is building houses the state simply has no prospect of moving all shack dwellers into formal housing. The eradication agenda is over. This is progress. Facing the reality of a situation is obviously much better than denying it and then using state violence to try to keep it at bay.

But we also need to take concrete steps to resolve the housing crisis and Sexwale has shown no real willingness to get to the heart of the matter. On the contrary, his recently announced “radical plans” to “change the face of housing delivery” amount to little more than trying to cut out some of the corruption in the existing system, adding police stations and clinics to the peripheral ghettos that he is still building and creating still more space for state-backed civil society to substitute itself for genuinely popular participation in housing.

Sexwale is silent on the real issues that could make a real difference. He is silent on the urgent need to put the social value of urban land before its commercial value. He is silent on the equally urgent need to channel resources away from elite projects and towards basic needs. He is silent on the need to democratise housing and to wrench it, firmly, from the hands of the party’s patronage networks. He is also silent on the need to support people to occupy land and to develop services and build for themselves when the state cannot meet their housing needs.

And, while he cozies up to big business and state-backed civil society, he remains culpably silent on the political repression faced by the independent shack dwellers’ movements that have been trying to build a national network of poor people’s movements that are accountable to no one but their members and that could, in the words of the Landless People’s Movement, “use the weapon of mass struggle to rediscipline the parliamentarians”.

Sexwale is clearly an improvement on Sisulu and the end of state support for the fantasy that the eradication of shack settlements is imminent, is a good thing. But an adequate response to the housing crisis requires a lot more than this and, by any serious measure, he has failed his apprenticeship in this job.

• Richard Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University. This article first appeared on the website of the South African Civil Society Information Service (

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Housing matters

KNYSNA NEWS - It became clear during the recent visit of Western Cape Minister of Housing and Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, that residents were still unclear as to how the municipality receives and allocates money for housing in the area.

Knysna Municipal Manager Johnny Douglas explained: "The National Government makes funds available to the provinces for housing. Some provinces take sole responsibility for housing, whilst others, like Western Cape, use the local authority and an implementation agent. In the latter case, the municipality receives an annual allocation dependent on the provincial budget and priorities. This annual allocation is meant to be used for ALL state housing initiatives: servicing sites, building top structures, building rental units, installing additional services to top structures, rehabilitation, platforming, and retaining walls, etc. Knysna Council is one of the handful nationally who provides additional top-up funding for housing, as the allocation received each year, based upon the subsidy amount, is insufficient."

Municipal view
Minister Madikizela’s visit to the area on September 3 and 4, was reported on in the previous edition of this newspaper. However, at time of going to press then the Knysna Municipality had not yet submitted a response to various issues raised during a meeting between the minister and members of the municipality. Response was received from Douglas since.

Citizens still using the bucket system
Knysna Municipal Manager Johnny Douglas, gave the following explanation pertaining to senior citizens still using the bucket system, a matter which concerned Minister Madikizela greatly. "There are a number of sites which have been given bulk services in Rheenendal. These households are non-qualifiers and thus cannot receive a subsidy." He explained further that the residents of the area were fully aware that they had to undertake the internal reticulation themselves and said that a number of affected persons had already done so. "This was discussed with the minister who was adamant that if persons do not qualify they must assist themselves.
All persons using buckets in Dam-se-bos were supplied with waterborne sanitation (own or communal) as part of the Presidential Directive in 2007. We are aware that some individuals have recommenced using this system out of their own will".

Cracked and damaged houses
Douglas explained that the issue surrounding cracked and damaged houses was a complex one which relates to the lack of national policy to deal with houses built before 1994. "Those [houses] built after 1994 are investigated and if the problem relates to maintenance the government is not responsible for rehabilitation. If the problem is related to geo-technical, hydro, or operational reasons, rehabilitation may be undertaken pending funding." According to Douglas, funding needs to be provided by the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape (PAWC). "The MEC has indicated he is willing to consider an application which we sent to them three years ago and have yet to receive a formal response".

Upgrading informal settlements
The municipal manager answered the Dam-se Bos community’s concerns about the lack of housing being built on plots that were set out for this purpose, saying that "the upgrading of the Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) in Dam-se-Bos is focused on the provision of services first and then the top structures later. This is the way that Vision and all UISP projects work. This is provincial and national policy. Funds and other operational matters allowing, we do sometimes follow immediately with platforms and top structures, but this is not the norm." Douglas further explained that as part of good spatial and human settlement planning the municipality identifies sites, plots and properties which are suitable for housing. "Sometimes we go as far as pre-planning and surveying. However, unless we have the funds from Province we cannot undertake any development."

Infrastructure problems
When Minister Madikizela referred to a meeting where the Municipality had promised to meet with various service providers to deal with infrastructure problems, he was referring to sanitation in particular. Douglas said that there was no discussion with the minister, "nor do we have any problems with the service providers dealing with infrastructure. So it is not clear why this was stated." According to Vusi Tshose of Human Settlements communications department, the department did no want to prescribe what sanitation or service provider for the sanitation the municipalities should use, but would like to interact and offer technical support to the municipality, where possible.

- George Herald

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Same old hostels - Tokyo's plan never took off

Exactly one year and one day ago, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale met community leaders at the Thokoza Hostel to hear complaints about their "appalling" living conditions.

At the time he pledged the hostel would be upgraded to provide decent accommodation for residents.

Yesterday however he told Parliament the project had stalled.

Speaking during question time in the National Assembly, Sexwale said the hostels would now get electricity first and an upgrade later.

"It is heart-rending. We have got a very serious problem - that if you start upgrading it is going to take a long long time. They (Thokoza hostel residents) must be able to have lights, warm water, and be able to cook for the children," Sexwale said.

"If we are going to subject them to the total upgrading of the hostel, that is a long haul. We just have to help those people in such a way that at a later stage, the upgrading can be done there," he said.

Sexwale blamed the delay on the fact that his department was "reviewing its human settlements development model in line with the new service delivery approach of the outcomes-based targets".

"I am not going to throw good money at a bad project"

He said he had just signed his performance agreement with President Jacob Zuma last month and that that had "changed the pace".

Sexwale did not explain exactly how his new performance agreement affected the pace of change planned for Thokoza hostel. But he said: "I am not going to throw good money at a bad project".

Responding to Sexwale's statement, IFP MP Petros Sithole said: "I am shocked now because he announced that he was going to fund the rectification of Thokoza. The Ekurhuleni municipality has funded it, expecting the minister to refund them, so if the minister says he has not yet started to refund them, that is a problem."

Even an ANC MP asked "how long will it take your department to fulfil this promise? The municipality is accused of failing to deliver".

Sexwale told them funds were available for the hostel electrification.

"How long this is going to take depends on electricians as soon as we give them the funding," he said.

Sowetan reported last year that the residents were angry at the slow pace of delivering water, electricity and sanitation. They also raised concerns at the slow pace of rebuilding hostels into family units.

Government has come up with several excuses, with Ekhuruleni mayor Ntombi Mekgwe telling residents last year that converting hostels into family units was on hold as the Gauteng housing department still had to approve geo-technical studies of the dolomitic land on which the hostels were built.

- Sowetan