Housing needs flare up

Protesters burn tyres and bins on the streets.

There were scenes of smoke, teargas, rubber bullets and burning tyres, in several areas covered by the Southern Mail, over the past week, as people took to the streets to voice their housing frustrations.

But the Department of Human Settlements has made it clear that, in spite of these protests, due process will be followed to address housing needs.

Several people were arrested in Parkwood and Ottery after police and other law enforcement agencies were called out to Parkwood, Retreat and Ottery from Wednesday March 20, where protest action erupted, leading to clashes and the temporary closure of two sections of Prince George Drive.

On Wednesday, Parkwood residents started protesting, saying their calls to accelerate housing developments in the area were being ignored and there had been a delay in the Greater Retreat Housing Development (“Big move on housing, Southern Mail, October 4, 2017).

This comes after they took part in a picket at the Department of Human Settlements in Cape Town CBD, but weren’t addressed by MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela.

Community worker Paul Phillips said: “There is a delay in the kick-off of this housing project, and there is so much red tape and criteria that the community has to meet. The end of the month will be the anniversary of the initial protest we had about the issue.

“People are despondent and a red line has been drawn – till here and not any further. If government doesn’t respond to our calls, people will take things into their own hands.”

On Human Rights Day (Thursday March 21), residents of Retreat and the surrounding areas also protested.

Howard Soetwater, from the The United Homeless People Development Association said they felt their human rights were being violated because there was inadequate housing for those who needed.

“The government is having different meetings with different communities, but all the officials are saying the same things, and we are getting the same story. They keep telling us they are going to be building houses, but no one can give us answers on when or when they are going to start.

“There are supposed to be seven housing projects in the southern suburbs. Why hasn’t building started on one of them yet?” asked Mr Soetwater.

With elections around the corner, he added, promises were being made but not fulfilled.

“It is election time, and everyone needs our vote. Every time people are promised houses before the elections, but the people are still waiting. After the elections, there might be massive changes in caucus, and then we have to wait even longer.

“We are frustrated, and people are desperate for housing. So the best thing to do is to take it to the streets. That’s the only option we have left,” he said.

On Friday March 22 protests erupted in Ottery, with residents pegging plots of land on the open field earmarked for the Edward Street housing project (“Ottery housing delayed”, Southern Mail, October 10 2018). Protests continued on Monday March 25.

Wayde Matthews’ family is among those on the preliminary list of beneficiaries.

“We wanted to get the City of Cape Town’s attention because nothing seems to be happening with the housing project that was promised to us. Every year, the project is delayed, and there are new excuses for building not starting.

“Four councillors were in charge of this issue. For more than 15 years, this project was promised to us, but so far there has not been a single brick laid. We are tired of the delays and different stories and we need houses. Our living conditions are worsening, and Ottery is overcrowded, so we are ready for the project to start,” he said.

In response to the Parkwood protests, Nathan Adriaanse, of the Department of Human Settlements, said the department had allocated money towards the Greater Retreat Housing Development,which included Parkwood, Vrygrond, Lavender Hill, Retreat, Grassy Park, Plumstead, Lotus River, Ottery, Seawinds and Steenberg.

“From the first Parkwood protests, we have been engaging with communities, brought in a professional team and have been busy planning,” he said.

Mr Adriaanse added that there were 66 parcels of land, totalling 279 hectares, which belonged to national, provincial and municipal government.

“Not every parcel of land is suitable for housing,and some have been earmarked for other things. We are going through each parcel of land, and we are nowhere close to digging the first trenches because we are still in the planning process,” he said.

The planning process alone could take between 18 to 24 months, he said.

“We are engaging with communities and going through a public participation process but a change is coming soon,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parkwood and Ottery groups have called for Ward 66 councillor William Akimtobe removed. They marched to his home in Parkwood.

Mr Akim confirmed that the Edward Street housing project had been in the pipeline for 15 years.

“There were appeals and objections to the project in the past, and, therefore it was delayed. But this project is now running the way it’s supposed to be. Consultants have been appointed and we had a feedback meeting with the community. There are still processes that need to be followed, and we are busy to finalise the planning of the housing project,” said Mr Akim.