Freedom Park upgrade ‘on track’

The first phase of the upgrade has been completed.

The City of Cape Town says the upgrade project of informal settlement Freedom Park in Ottery into Breaking New Ground (BNG) homes and serviced plots is well on track despite grievances from residents.

The project, which commenced in February 2021, is a major upgrade for 159 families.

It will provide sewer and water connections for each residence, black-top roads and stormwater services and although many residents are happy about the developments, many have questioned the City about when it will be completed.

Community leader Dennis Buggs said there had not been any work done by the City in a few months and residents were growing tired of waiting for their homes to be completed. He added that there hasn’t been any updates from City officials about why work has slowed down and when completion is expected.

“We have been living under very bad conditions for over 24 years, there were many problems and we had many grievances especially with the temporary homes. Now we are excited and happy the work has begun but it doesn’t seem like things are moving as fast as they could be.

“We are desperate to move into proper homes but it is taking longer than we thought it would,” he said.

Community worker Keith Blake, who works closely with the Freedom Park community, said residents had been approaching him to find out when the upgrade will be completed and have been patiently waiting for their promised houses for “years upon years”.

The Freedom Park steering Committee from left are Vernon Pietersen, Nicholas Crowster, Jacqueline Hansen, Ursula Pietersen, Dennis Buggs and ward councillor William Akim. Infront is committed member Mervyn Jumad.

“These poorest of the poor coloured people, citizens of Cape Town, have been waiting for more than 20 years to get the brick and mortar homes in relation to the upgrade and were moved from their shacks with speed and then placed in temporary modern plain shacks, which was supposed to be just for a while but this while is becoming forever.

“These residents are being taken for almost donkeys in the way they are treated in communication and the completion of their homes. All over Cape Town one hears and sees other communities get keys to their brick and mortar homes except the residents of Freedom Park who are almost being spitefully treated to wait when the City is one day ready to complete the new homes,” said Mr Blake.

Ward councillor William Akim said the first phase of the housing project, electrical underground wiring and road surfacing, had been completed and the planning for the top structure of the upgrade is in the final phase.

“At our last sub-council meeting we received correspondence from the department of human settlements that by June this year they will start with the top structure of housing.”

He said a meeting was held with the steering committee last year to give them a preview of the type of houses that will be constructed and a follow up meeting was supposed to be held with the community to get their input but it didn’t materialise because of admin issues.

“That meeting will probably only happen in April and the beneficiaries will be able to get a better understanding of what is happening,” said Mr Akim.

He added that there were major problems with the relocation of residents from their old structures to the temporary structures: “It was then decided that moving residents from the temporary structures to the houses will have to happen in stages to avoid any further issues.”

The City’s human settlements department confirmed that civil engineering services have been completed at the settlement and the implementation of the top structures is currently being planned and that work will commence in the second quarter of 2023 and stand firm that the project is still on track.

In a statement the department said the project is making good progress and thanked residents and beneficiaries for their support and patience.

It was also confirmed that the project will consist of BNG homes as well as serviced site opportunities because the number of BNG homes will depend on the number of beneficiaries who qualify for the BNG subsidy. The serviced sites will then be provided to residents who do not qualify for a BNG opportunity in the area.