For years the field in Edward Street was known as the battlefield of Ottery where rival gangs, from what used to be called the A and B sides of Ottery, would shoot at each other.
But it is hoped a new housing project at the site will change this.
Residents from either side, which are both adjacent to the field, couldn’t go to the opposite end because they would be targeted but the residents are now going to be neighbours.
Community Liaison Officer for the project, Wendy Davids said the two sides of Ottery will now become one.
“Because of gangsterism the community was divided but now Ottery A and Ottery B are going to be combined as one on this one field which was the battle field but is now going to be the common ground.”
Ms Davids said it wasn’t an easy road but the community stood together and fought for their future homes. Last year the project was almost put on hold when the community objected to the lack of local workers and contractors on site but this was quickly remedied when local labour was appointed.
“It feels amazing to be part of the project and to start building because this has been coming on for many many years. This is something that the community of Ottery has been needing and to finally be at this point feels amazing and we thank God for it,” said Ms Davids.
Venessa Oncke, a backyard-dweller and beneficiary of the housing project, recalled protests and church services held on the field to try and quell the gang violence on it. “I believe that the things of the past and the negative name this field had in the past will be changed by this housing project.”
Ms Oncke was overjoyed and emotional knowing that she will have a home of her own by next year and lauded the community’s persistence and the City of Cape Town for finally making her dream come true.
“I cried so much on Friday because it is becoming a reality. I am so excited that one of these days we are getting homes and my family and I will have a place to call our own.”
Ward 66 councillor William Akim praised the community for their patience and the work they put in to make the dream of Ottery a reality.
“This is a historic moment for the residents of Ottery who have been waiting for more than 20 years for this to happen. I am very excited for the residents because they will now have a deed and a house that their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren can inherit,” said Mr Akim.
He also encouraged others to sign up to the City of Cape Town’s housing database to become homeowners.
If all goes according to plan, 30 families will be able to move into their new homes, which will hopefully be completed by December.
Sub-council 18 chairperson Kevin Southgate said the collaborative effort between the community, contractors and officials has been commendable and said the sub-council will continue to ensure that the promise of completed houses is realised by next year.
“These families will be inspired and now have hope for the future,” he said.
The R54.6 million housing project is set to be completed by the end of June next year with 116 Breaking New Ground (BNG) state-subsidised houses and 10 Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP) houses.
A sod-turning ceremony was held at the building site on Friday October 20 to celebrate the long awaited project.
Mayco committee member for human settlements, Carl Pophaim, who was at the sod-turning ceremony, said he was thrilled to see this project progress so that the qualifying beneficiaries can soon move into their new homes.
“The project had been impacted by criminality and extortion specifically earlier this year. Enhanced security and monitoring was implemented to deal with the threats and the support of the community has been absolutely critical; and it is one of the principal reasons why the civil services stage could be completed without any incident,” said Mr Pophaim.
He added the City will continue to ensure that beneficiaries receive their opportunities as planned: “When we work together in partnership with our communities, we can overcome the obstacles and get one step closer to greater dignity for our residents. When we all say enough is enough and stand together to fight criminality and extortion, we can make a big difference”.