PREMIER Helen Zille and mayor Patricia de Lille were lambasted for slow housing delivery by angry Hangberg residents during a sod-turning ceremony yesterday, but Zille said community division was the biggest factor delaying progress.
Zille and De Lille visited the area for the ceremony for the development of 142 community rental units and were met by a group of residents who were upset that they had not been invited to the meeting.
As the two leaders entered a community hall, people chanted: “Nothing about us without us” and “They shot at us and now they don’t want to pay for what they did.”
All residents were allowed into the meeting later.
Hangberg residents criticised Zille and De Lille, saying it was the first time they had been in the area since the clashes between residents and police in September 2010.
Residents illegally invaded land on the Sentinel, leading to clashes in which three residents each lost an eye.
In 2011, a peace accord was signed between the Hangberg community and the city.
The development of 142 community rental units is under way to cater for people on the city’s housing waiting list which are predominantly from the area.
The city bought four sites in Hangberg to develop community rental units after the 2010 clash.
De Lille said since the breakdown between government and the community in 2010, the city and province had committed to adhering to court-ordered mediation.
“We have worked with the Peace and Mediation Forum to make peace in this community possible.
“After these short years of working towards a common objective, we have finally arrived at this significant day where we begin to cement our relationship for the future,” De Lille said.
During the first phase of the development, set for completion early next year, 71 units will be built. The city is busy obtaining approvals for the second phase of another 71 units. The project is worth R61 million.
Zille said: “This is a big day for me, it’s a day I thought would come in 2008 already but I’ve learnt in government that things take a little longer. There are brick walls of regulation and brick walls you don’t anticipate. And perhaps the biggest brick wall is divided communities. That has been one of the major challenges in Hangberg.”
Zille said since she was mayor in 2007 there was a plan to upgrade informal dwellings in the area but that more people moved on to the site leading to the 2010 clash. She said the aftermath, however, provided an opportunity for parties to sign a peace accord.
“The city and the province are committed to sticking to their side of the bargain. We have communicated well with the Peace and Mediation Forum even though there was internal community conflict which has still not been resolved,” Zille said.
One of the former members of the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum, Haniefah Lee stood up and shouted at Zille: “I am an elected leader, why are you and the mayor not sticking to the court order. You are working with an illegal structure in the community.”
Zille responded: “We work with whoever is elected by the community and we received a letter from you (Lee) that you had resigned from the forum. There was an annual general meeting where the community elected new leadership.”
Roscoe Jacobs, of the Hangberg Resident’s Association, said: “This is DA electioneering. They say this is going to be rental stock but there was no communication with the community to ask them if that is what they want and how it will be allocated.”
Responding to residents’ comments, De Lille said: “We have been working with the community and unfortunately it was very difficult. We’ve had endless meetings… The beneficiaries of the rental units, they know who they are. With the community, we selected the beneficiaries to deal with the backlog of housing.”
Greg Louw, vice chairman of the newly elected Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum, said: “The biggest problem we’ve got is a small minority that always want to keep the community back. We have a court order that makes it very clear, there’s a partnership between SANParks, provincial government, the city and the Hangberg community in the form of leaders that the community has appointed.”
He said the last housing development in Hangberg was in 1992 and said the rental units was a step in the right direction.
“There are no houses to accommodate people on the waiting list, this is a good resolution. Why must it be stopped by individuals?” Louw said.
Moses Egypt, father of Delon Egypt who was shot with a rubber bullet and lost his eye during the clashes with police in 2010 was not impressed by De Lille and Zille’s appearance.
“My son has the most serious form of epilepsy, they shot his eye out. He still has the bullet in his head. He can’t work now. I am not interested in them, they shot his eye out and put a bullet in his head,” Egypt said.