Calm returns to Hermanus as fragile land truce holds

2018-05-21 20:00
Protests in Hermanus. (Supplied by Marthunis Barnard, MyWhaleCoast)

Protests in Hermanus. (Supplied by Marthunis Barnard, MyWhaleCoast)

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Calm returned to Hermanus on Monday as a fragile truce over land and work on site preparation began, municipal manager Coenie Groenewald said on Monday.

"At this stage, it is quiet. We just hope and pray it's going to stay like this," he said.

A truce was brokered last Thursday over land for Zwelihle "backyarders", as the council and community leaders continued to work on a timetable for development.

READ: Hermanus protests halted as agreement over land reached

This includes the Western Cape government buying a 45-hectare privately-owned, sea-front plot called Schulphoek, so that the residents could build on it. It also includes the Overstrand municipality setting up services on a temporary site while this is finalised.

The provincial government hopes to buy Schulphoek if the price is right.

However, last Friday, Zwelihle's neighbours in Mount Pleasant, also laid claim to Schulphoek, and said they too had been waiting for decades for housing.

They said they were being sidelined in favour of Zwelihle residents, claiming many had entered the area long after them.

According to Groenewald, the Mount Pleasant residents' Schulphoek claim dates back to an era when there was a caravan park and recreational area there, owned by a previous council and used by the "coloured" community.

The caravan park became neglected and the municipality could not maintain it, so it became part of a large parcel of land in Hermanus sold to private owners.

The sale of the land was apparently a "trade off" for the conglomerate being forced to stop some of its planned developments in the town.

Mayor Dudley Coetzee has promised that the land sold in a complex deal would be bought back and asked that the focus not be on how it came into private hands, but on how it will be returned to the people of Zwelihle.

However, Groenewald told News24 that, in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act, once a council had sold land to a private owner, it was not allowed to buy the land back.

ALSO READ: Hermanus Schulphoek land owners agree to sell amid protests

This has to be done by the government.

Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela stepped in and has confirmed that the current owners have agreed to sell, subject to valuation processes.

Leslie Viljoen, who co-owns the land along with the Rabie Group, said negotiations were under way and that everybody who had tried to settle on the land, moved off until the deal was closed.

A similar protest in Hawston, further along the R43, was also resolved on Friday according to local police Brigadier Donovan Heilbron.

He said everything was "100%" back to normal and added that, apart from the burning barricades, the Mount Pleasant and Hawston protests of Friday were largely peaceful.

Groenewald said the Hawston protest was a "misunderstanding" over development in the area.

He said a 36-hole golf course had been planned, with the local Hawston community to run 18 of the holes and the remaining 18 holes forming part of a luxury development.

Residents were against the proposal but in the end, it "didn't fly" because the soil itself was unsuitable for development, said Groenewald.

Meanwhile, Zwelihle community leader Sicelo Gxamesi thanked the community for their unity in getting the Schulphoek land.

"We know very well that you have sacrificed a lot. No work, no pay principles applied in your workplaces. Nevertheless, one day you will be proud to say: 'I took part to bring back the Schulphoek land,'" he posted on Facebook.

Sixty-nine people were initially arrested when the protests surfaced in March.

Charges were withdrawn against two, and most were released on R300 bail on warnings, for public violence charges

Four more people were arrested last week for alleged public violence. The outcome of their expected appearance on Monday was not immediately available.

Read more on:    cape town  |  land  |  protests

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