Residents engaged in violent protests on Sunday. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Hout Bay is a community deeply divided along racial and socio-economic lines.

The haves of the valley are flanked by the have-nots of the mountain slope areas of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg.

The fishing community of Hangberg, the residents of which have worked the sea for generations, have, for decades, been promised an improvement in their living conditions, but their plight has fallen on deaf ears.

This has pushed the community over the edge, driving them to violence following the suspected killing of one of their own, Durick van Blerk. 

Van Blerk was on a late night fishing expedition on Friday, when it's believed he was shot by police patrolling for poachers, before falling overboard.

He is still missing.

But his alleged extra-judicial killing is not the only thing that sparked the protest.

Discontent over fishing quotas, a lack of housing and service delivery, and dwindling job opportunities, has been bubbling under the surface, culminating in violent protests last year.

Visits by officials have done little to put the community at ease, managing to only appease them, while bringing no tangible solutions to the challenges they face. 

It started in 2006, when Hangberg was earmarked for an upgrade.

Everything was ready and construction began on a housing project, in the lower sections of the mountain slope. 

In 2009, there was a land invasion, and settlers built shacks above the fire break, on land under the custodianship of SANParks.

In September 2010, the land invasion unit conducted a raid, destroying the "offending" shacks, putting scores of people out on the streets in the middle of the night. 

This sparked the first violent protests by the residents of Hangberg. But these protests were largely contained in the area, and along the road to the harbour, where most of the community there made their living. 

Out of this chaos, the Hangberg Peace Accord was born. The accord was ratified by the Western Cape High Court in February 2011. 

Under the tenets of the accord, a committee was to be set up to elect and appoint a Peace and Mediation Forum, to ensure the continued peace in the community of around 10 000 people, and address their concerns. 

But, instead of the forum being duly and fairly elected, its members were handpicked, according to community activists and leaders.

The accord became a bone of contention, and between 2011 and 2017, none of the stipulations in the Hangberg Peace Accord were implemented.

During this period, particularly between 2016 and 2017, Hangberg exploded in violent protests.

To help bring calm to the area, the Hangberg Concerned Residents Group was set up.

A measure of quiet returned to the area, but this quiet was by no means peace. 

Needs and concerns over housing and near-shore and in-shore fishing rights continued to fester, never being clearly addressed by authorities.

When the quotas for total allowable catch was mooted to be cut by 60%, this further incited the residents of the already-impoverished community who struggle to put food on the table. 

Durick van Blerk's alleged murder pushed the community over the edge. 

His family has called for calm.

The Hangberg community is a community marginalised, and until such time as it feels included, it could only be a matter of time before it sets off again.


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Cape Times