The chairperson of the project steering committee of the Manenberg infill housing project, Melanie Manuel Johnson, is happy that this project, which started in 2008, is finally taking off.
Ms Manuel Johnson made this remark at the sod-turning ceremony hosted by mayor Patricia de Lille on Wednesday July 20, just outside the Manenberg housing office.
Also known as the Downs housing project, the City of Cape Town will spend R123 million on this development – which will see 587 houses being built over the next three years.
Housing opportunities will be provided for residents of Manenberg, Surrey Estate, Tambo Square, Sherwood Park and Gugulethu.
Said Ms Manuel Johnson: “This project has its roots in 2008, when we signed an agreement with the then mayoral committee member for human settlements, Dan Plato. It’s still an ongoing process, but I’m happy that all the beneficiaries have been identified and approved. We are having ongoing workshops with the City and the beneficiaries. This project, which will help restore dignity to the people, is long overdue.
“The bulk of the beneficiaries – up to 85% – are people who are currently living in backyards, and who are often subjected to abuse from their landlords, as well as our seniors, disabled and other vulnerable people. Yes, there were delays to the project, but I’m happy that it is continuing. As the project steering committee, we also had challenges. Some people even threatened us while we were doing our field work. We are an all-women team and we are strong.”
Current mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, paid tribute to the all-women steering committee “who have taken the lead” in Manenberg.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ms De Lille said she knew that people of Manenberg sometimes felt like they were being forgotten.
“We are delivering on a promise we made in our Integrated Development Plan in 2011 when we emphasised our commitment to making the Manenberg infill housing project a reality. We identified Manenberg as an area in desperate need of urban upgrading and in need of regeneration.
“We were led by our commitment to redress the injustices of the past. We were guided by a pledge to do all we can within our mandate to overcome the many generations of spatial and economic exclusion suffered by the people who were forced to make Manenberg their home.”
Ms De Lille said some of the City of Cape Town’s interventions in Manenberg included the more than R200 million spent on the upgrade of the City’s Community Residential Units in the area. An extra R40 million was spent on additional costs incurred due to the delays caused by gangsterism and crime.
“We spent R5.5 million on a synthetic pitch in order to bring a world-class sports facility to encourage the budding sports stars from Manenberg.
“We have also begun the work on the Manenberg Youth Lifestyle Campus which we announced a year ago, together with community leaders. The campus forms part of a R29 million investment in the youth of Manenberg over the next three years.
“We believe that if the youth are given opportunities, they will not be tempted by the lure of gangterism and drugs which has torn this community apart for too long.
“We have already installed floodlights for the Manenberg sports field and this will be followed by a R15 million upgrade of parks and R14 million on sports facilities. We have also budgeted R8.2 million for social crime prevention and safety projects in Manenberg. This includes outreach initiatives for youth at risk and a crime trends analysis that will be undertaken to assist the efforts of law enforcement.”
Ms De Lille also pointed out that the City’s partnership with the project steering committee is key to the success of the development.
“I am so proud of each of you and I want to thank you for all the hard work that you have put in thus far.”
She also appealed to the community to not allow vandalism while construction is underway, and once families move into the houses, she asked that the community not allow anyone to “smokkel”.
“We must not allow them to destroy our children. Ons gaan julle uitsit,” she said, to shouts of agreement from the audience.