Cape Town - A new runway at Cape Town International Airport could mean proper homes for impoverished people living in Freedom Farm.
Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) is pushing for the relocation of residents of Freedom Farm, a settlement on land owned by Acsa and in the direct line of aircraft flight paths, in order to make space for a new, rotated runway.
According to Acsa’s Final Scoping Report, the company is investigating the feasibility of relocating residents to land on the eastern side of the airport in the Symphony Way Development Corridor.
“The development of Symphony Way Development Corridor will serve as a buffer between the airport and adjacent residential developments, which will expand over time,” the report read.
Freedom Farm is an informal settlement on the northern boundary of the airport near the intersection of Robert Sobukwe Road and Stellenbosch Arterial. In 2012 residents staged large protests to demand houses, setting tyres on fire in hopes that the smoke would disrupt air traffic.
According to the report, Acsa has been discussing the relocation of Freedom Farm residents with the City of Cape Town since 2010.
“We want to move but many people don’t have identification or birth certificates so they can’t qualify for housing,” Sebastian Jooste, community leader of the settlement’s “R” block, said. “Acsa hasn’t assisted us in getting and submitting the proper paperwork.”
According to Jooste, 629 families live in the settlement. During the Freedom Farm protests in 2012, the then councillor for Ward 24, Asa Abrahams, stated that 547 families needed housing, suggesting people have since moved to Freedom Farm.
“We always worry about more people moving here,” Jooste said. “People hear we’re getting houses and suddenly new shacks spring up.”
According to Jooste, Acsa is doing its “utmost” to take care of Freedom Farm dwellers. But other residents, such as Banele Ngazi, disagree.
“No one is communicating to us about what’s going on,” Ngazi said. “There’s no communication from Acsa, there’s no communication with community leaders.”
Acsa meets four times a year with five community leaders from Freedom Farm, including Jooste, to discuss housing and other issues relating to the settlement and the airport.
According to the report, “The development of a viable commercial/industrial zone by Airports Company South Africa will partly address the high levels of unemployment in the local area and contribute towards the social and economic development of the area.”
Acsa did not specify the ways in which the development could do so.
The report also stated that a memorandum of understanding has been signed by Acsa and the City of Cape Town regarding the relocation of Freedom Farm residents and the development of the Symphony Way Development Corridor.
The report stated: “The City of Cape Town will relocate families from these informal settlements independently of the runway realignment project.”