Masiphumelele residents want permission to occupy vacant city land

2017-03-15 15:54
Masiphumelele residents wait outside the community hall for a meeting with City of Cape Town officials. (Thembela Ntongana, GroundUp)

Masiphumelele residents wait outside the community hall for a meeting with City of Cape Town officials. (Thembela Ntongana, GroundUp)

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Cape Town - On Monday night, more than 1 000 Masiphumelele residents filled their local community hall, hoping to get permission from the City of Cape Town to build shacks on land next to the Phase 4 housing project.

The city bought the land in 2003, under former Cape Town Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo. It has stood vacant all these years. Part of the land is a sports field, GroundUp reported.

At the meeting were the city's MMC for informal settlements Xanthea Limberg, adviser Loyiso Nkohla, and Emma Powell of the human settlements department.

The meeting started 40 minutes late because the hall was locked. A city official went to fetch ward councillor Felicity Purchase, who had the key. People sang while they waited outside.

Once residents had entered the hall, they refused to start the meeting until Purchase left. They had agreed beforehand with the city that she would not be in attendance.

Nkohla told the chair of the meeting, Tshepo Moletsana, that Purchase had every right to be there as ward councillor. Purchase refused to leave and remained for the rest of the meeting.

"Let us treat her like the doll that she is, a doll that cannot speak. We will not hear a word from her in this meeting," said Moletsana.

'Hell will break loose'

Community leader Lunga Mthambo said she had disrespected them and they did not recognise her as a councillor.

"She should never set her foot in Masiphumelele. If she comes, hell will break loose."

Limberg said she had only been in her current position for four weeks and wanted to understand the history of the community.

She apologised for not attending a site visit, as promised earlier in the week, because she had to attend an important meeting. Later, Powell told residents the reason the officials had not visited the site was that they did not have all the information they needed.

Limberg said the city wanted to develop a task team for Masiphumelele and establish a memorandum of understanding with residents.

Mthambo said this was what they got told at Thursday's meeting. He said the city only asked for Monday's meeting because it feared an imminent land occupation.

Limberg said the City first had to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the vacant land, which would take up to three years.

'Playing cheap politics'

Mthambo said the EIA had been done in 2006, and a sports field was built afterward.

He said Powell had promised to send the community documents regarding the land issue, but had not done so.

Powell said residents were playing "cheap politics".

A resident replied: "You cannot tell us about cheap politics when the ward councillor has been using that tactic for years, for not providing services to black people because they do not vote for her."

Residents said it was clear they would not get answers from the city at the meeting.

Nkohla threatened to leave with the other officials if the community did not listen.

Someone then switched off the lights, plunging the hall into darkness. Some residents blocked the doors. Moletsana and other community leaders asked for the doors to be opened and the city's officials were allowed to leave.

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  land

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