Hout Bay ratepayers, city in fresh dispute
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By Bulelani Phillip and David Yutar
The Hout Bay Ratepayers' Association and the City of Cape Town are once again at loggerheads over the expansion of Imizamo Yethu after the city gave the go-ahead to build on conservation land "as a temporary arrangement".
The association believes the occupation of conservation land adjacent to the largely white Hughenden Estate is illegal. The land belongs to the council but is administered by the Table Mountain National Park. Shacks are now being built high on the mountain beyond the designated urban edge.
But the council says the families building homes along the fence next to Hughenden Estate are doing so to make room for a construction company to restore homes destroyed in the fire which swept the area in February.
The latest dispute follows a Cape High Court interdict that prevents the City of Cape Town from developing houses in a 34 hectares area previously earmarked for developing amenities.
What has been at issue is the fact that thousands more people have settled in Imizamo Yethu than was originally envisaged.
The Imizamo Yethu Sinethemba Civic Organisation and the overwhelmingly white Hout Bay Ratepayers' Association, want the land restricted to the "original beneficiaries", while the city and the South African National Civic Organisation say the land must be used for the benefit of all residents now living there.
Executive mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo has promised to take urgent steps to lift planning restrictions preventing development of the overall site.
Earlier this month the Hout Bay Ratepayers' Association received a letter from the City of Cape Town's attorneys asking for permission to extend the settlement to an area known as 4C.
It said: "While our client has no intention of acting in contravention of the court order granted by the High Court, it points out that should your clients not agree, our client's only other option would be to allow these people currently living in the road reserves and in community halls to move on to the upper slopes above Imizamo Yethu, by no means a perfect solution".
Graham Kelroe-Cooke, chairperson of the Hout Bay Ratepayers' Association, said the council had turned a blind eye to the fact that residents were building in a conservation area.
"Our concern is that history has shown that as a soon as land is available, squatters move in from all over the country, as has happened this past week."
The Cape Argus visited the area on Thursday and found numerous people erecting shacks alongside the fence that separates the largely white Hughenden Estate from the informal settlement.
However, the city denied that the people were building the dwellings illegally.
Andries Cornelissen, spokesperson for the mayoral committee member for housing, Carol Beerwinkel, acknowledged that the area was conservation land but maintained that it belonged to the city.
He said that the city had agreed with Table Mountain National Park that people could build on it, as a "temporary" arrangement.
Table Mountain National Park's spokesperson Fiona Kalk could neither confirm nor dispute the validity of the agreement between the city and the national park.
According to Cornelissen, the city has implemented a "24/7 monitoring process in the settlement, and growth of shacks is not possible".
The people building shacks were merely "37 families" who had been asked by the city to move to the 4C section (alongside the fence) because their houses were in the way of the construction company that had been hired to start developing amenities in the area damaged by fire in February.
"We would not have moved those people (to the conservation land), if it was not for the court interdict. There's no other land," said Cornelissen.
Hout Bay residents who live on either side of the settlement, in suburbs such as Hughenden and Penzance estates, say that expansion has been encouraged by the city's lax policies.
Many residents in the "white" part of town say their complaint is not so much with the presence of the settlement, but with its "unchecked expansion".