Broken Promises (PART 1)

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Since the early Nineties the community of Hout Bay and Imizamo Yethu have been negotiating with local and provincial government, to provide and to properly develop land for the existing informal settlers living in various places in Hout Bay. Initially only about 45 families were affected, but by the time the negotiations took off, this had grown to approximately 445 families.  Title deeds were promised to the legal beneficiaries and brick houses, with leafy gardens and ample community facilities were shown on various sketch plans by the consultants. All of this was going to happen in terms of an approved layout plan. Images of these plans were published online and in newspapers and showed charming brick houses with pretty gardens, tree lined residential streets, and other much needed facilities. The broader community of Hout Bay bought into these beautifully presented plans, lock stock and barrel, and as such the majority of Hout Bay residents were prepared to make compromises and conclude the deal.

The consequent agreements between the Hout Bay community, including the Hout Bay Ratepayer’s Association, and the informal residents of Imizamo Yethu, were signed, sealed and promulgated as Provincial Notices. The residential area earmarked for the approximately 445 families, was restricted to 18 out of 34ha, in order to ensure that the local community would have access to much needed community facilities such as schools, sports fields, clinics, libraries and so forth, and the first layout plans were approved in 1993 and 1994. By the time these were published, the continuous influx of people, from far and wide, had resulted in an additional 14 000 people taking residence in IY.

The City attempted to prevent people from occupying the land set aside for community facilities, and promised to expedite the registering of title deeds in the names of the legitimate beneficiaries. In Executive Committee meetings, under the leadership of Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo, the City Council committed to rigorously control influx and illegal settlement in Imizamo Yethu, and would implement various measures, including the deployment of field officers to IY 7 days a week. These City Council Resolutions have not been rescinded, and are still valid to this day. According to the City’s own legal advisors, once such resolutions have been made, the City Council becomes functus officio, and only the High Court has the authority to set the decision aside.

Despite these legally binding resolutions, City Council officials failed to comply and the influx of new informal settlers continued unabated. In 2004 the Hout Bay Ratepayer’s Association (and Sinethemba Civic, representing the legal beneficiaries) had to approach the High Court, and obtain an unopposed interdict against the City of Cape Town, when officials authorised the chopping down of trees in the Forestry Station (land that had been earmarked for much needed community facilities, and formed part of the 16 ha that had been set aside for that purpose).

A residents’ audit conducted in 2007 revealed that by this point there were in excess of 3000 families living in IY. The parties to the original agreements, including the legal beneficiaries and the Hout Bay Ratepayer’s Association, were approached by the then Mayor of Cape Town, Helen Zille, to revisit the negotiated settlement and to increase the residential component of IY from 18ha to 21 ha. The plans presented to the broader community included an additional 1100 residential units to the original 445 family units initially proposed, schools, sports fields and other community facilities. A mixed-use component consisting of commercial facilities were included in the new plans and after intensive consultations with community groups and organisations, including COSATU, the SACP, ANC, SANCO, Sinethemba Civic and the Hout Bay Ratepayer’s Association, the new agreement was reached in 2009.

These negotiations took place under the auspices of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, (IJR), and the outcome consisted of ten principals, tabled and adopted in the City Council, and once again legally binding upon the incumbents. The principals included a resolution that due to geographical and other constrictions, no more land was suitable/available in Hout Bay for low cost housing for the residents of Imizamo Yetho, and that as a trade-off for the compromises that had been made by ratepayers and legal beneficiaries alike, the Mayor and her Executive promised to ensure that suitable land would be purchased outside of Hout Bay, in order to accommodate those families that could not be housed in Hout Bay.

The broader community of Hout Bay once again indicated that they were willing to compromise and in good faith accepted the legally binding plans and promises presented to them. These were subsequently approved by Provincial Government, subject to the terms and conditions as set out in a comprehensively workshopped and approved Environmental Impact Assessment.

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The 2009 general election saw the Democratic Alliance taking Provincial Government power from the ANC, with former mayor Helen Zille becoming the incumbent Premier. New DA Mayor, Dan Plato, visited the Hout Bay Community and promised that the approved plans would go ahead and be implemented speedily. There was however an additional problem of a further 2000 families who by this time had settled on public open spaces, sidewalks, pavements, public roads, community halls, etc.  However, in view of the negotiated outcome of the IJR process, Plato was confident that land would soon be found elsewhere in Cape Town, and developed for the families that were not going to be able to be accommodated in Imizamo Yethu. He was positive that everyone would co-operate and that everything would fall into place.  

Not long after Mayor Plato’s “Road Show”, it was time for another election, this time the 2011 local government elections. The DA leaders, without giving a thought to the multiple and binding promises made to the Hout Bay community, decided that it was a good idea to partner with the Independent Democrats (holding only 6% of the voter’s support), and in favour of a deal struck with the ID it was decided that Mayor Plato should go.

Enter “Aunty” Patricia De Lille…

To be continued…