Housing meeting turns into chaos

City official, Grobler Basson, explained how far the process is with the Bonteheuwel infill housing project before the public meeting erupted in chaos.

The election of a project steering committee for a housing development in Bonteheuwel had to be called off when chaos erupted at a public meeting.

The meeting, on Thursday July 26, became heated and a few people, including Ward 50 councillor, Angus Mckenzie, were verbally and physically attacked.

Mr Mckenzie, who told the meeting there were 6 500 backyard dwellers in Bonteheuwel, blamed the chaos on members of the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF), whom he described as “synonymous with disrupting meetings”.

“They broke down the positivity and decided to again politicise the meeting meant for the greater good of the community. Those individuals should be ashamed of themselves. This is a very exciting project which will see almost 400 families be able to swop the street or backyard dwelling for a home. The homes will be built and we will restore dignity to those deserving individuals who have been on the housing list for many years,” he said.

Nadia Mayman De Grass from the JPF, however, denied Mr Mckenzie’s claim that her organisation disrupted the meeting.

“I was the only member of the JPF who was given an opportunity to ask a question. Also, I went there as a resident, not a JPF member. We reject his claim. When he told the residents this was the first housing project in 20 years, I called him out for his lies,” she said.

“Five years ago, we had the same meeting with the then ward councillor, Theresa Thompson. The same sites were identified for housing. It also happened to have been around the time just before the election. We were never consulted about the sites, how can he claim that this is a community consultative process?”

The three sites identified for this infill housing project include Camelia Park, Blombos Park and Ivory Street. Some residents objected to Camelia Park being developed for housing, as it is currently being used as a recreational facility for sport. Building houses on the Ivory Street site, currently zoned as a commercial site, is also a concern for some residents. Ms Mayman De Grass said five years ago, they called on that area to be rezoned as a heritage site.

Mr Mckenzie said those who disrupted the meeting, all had homes of their own, and wanted to deny others of having the same.

Ms Mayman De Grass also refuted this claim.

“We want our people to be put in homes, but Bonteheuwel is overcrowded as it is. We are already sitting with a crisis. How are we going to tackle drugs and gangsterism with an influx of people? We also need our recreational areas.

“Also, there is no Bonteheuwel housing waiting list, there is a City of Cape Town waiting list, and the beneficiaries will be the ones who have been on the waiting list the longest. That means that people from outside Bonteheuwel might qualify for a house in this development,” she said.

Resident Ayesha Alexander said she was disappointed that a project steering committee could not be elected.

“If we call another meeting for housing, I suggest people who already own homes must not be allowed in. You must come here with your housing application details and identity document. The people who cause the chaos are the ones who already have houses.”

Deon Jansen said his concern “was that people on the housing list were asked to update their details at the City. “My concern with this is that what if people come from other areas and give their relatives’ details who live in Bonteheuwel, claiming they live with them? This project must look at benefiting married people who really need it,” he said.

Nadia Altman said she had been living in a backyard dwelling for 23 years “under very challenging conditions”, and all she wanted was a house to call her own.

Ashiya Gordon said: “We came here because we are desperate for housing. Other people came here with their own agendas. My fear is that public meetings might come to an end in Bonteheuwel, because we might all be classified as hooligans.”

Fearing the worst, Mr Mckenzie called in the Metro police to escort him and City officials and consultants to the safety of their cars.