Hope of finding solutions to the growing crisis in Masiphumelele collapsed on Monday night after a meeting between community leaders and City officials broke down.
This meeting, attended by Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy followed a land invasion of erf 5131 on Saturday March 11 and rioting on Kommetjie Road on Sunday March 12.
Just hours before the Cape Town Cycle Tour was due to stream past the township, Masiphumelele residents blocked the road with rubble and burning tyres.
Their aim, said community leader Dumsani Nhlapo, had been to stop the cycle race. “And we won,” he said.
The two incidents, the illegal land invasion and the riot, which caused the route to be shortened (before the wind shut the race down entirely), lit up social media sites with racist remarks, name calling, sarcasm and threats bandied about from all sides.
The riot, Mr Nhlapo claimed, was in protest against DA ward councillor Felicity Purchase. Mr Nhlapo said the Masi community wanted the ANC representative, Tshepo Moletsane, to be their only leader. Mr Tshepo has not responded to any queries from the False Bay Echo on any of these latest issues.
Mr Nhlapo said the community wanted Ms Purchase to resign “because she divides Masiphumelele leaders and the community.”
Mr Nhlapo has said on a Masiphumele Facebook site, and in writing to the False Bay Echo, that Masiphumelele residents would make the southern suburbs ungovernable if their demands were not met.
“By saying we will make the southern suburbs ungovernable, we will if the City does not give us what we want. We can’t allow people to sleep in the street, but we have land that was purchased by former mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo for Masi,” he said.
Mr Nhlapo said 10,8213ha, constituting erf 5131, had been bought for the people of Masiphumelele. He claimed the deeds were transferred on August 5, 2004, as 75725/2004.
“So people of Masiphumelele, they have right to occupy the erf 5131,” he said, but noted that did not mean that Phase 4 development would be disturbed.
We occupied the land which is at the back of the soccer field; more than 30 shacks are already in place, and today they will be 20 more,” he said.
He claimed the City’s interdict on the SANParks and City-owned land preventing any construction was invalid.
“We warned them if they send law enforcement we will meet them in a battle field. We are ready for them. All we want is for the City to offer us services on Erf 5131, nothing else; the services we want are toilets for the shacks, electricity and water. That’s all.”
He said he wanted all the people of the Valley and Kommetjie to know that Masiphumelele did not have a problem with them, only with Ms Purchase.
Ms Purchase had sent, by email, a memorandum to community leader Tshepo Moletsane on Tuesday February 28, detailing all the answers to issues that were raised in the Masiphumelele community’s list of demands handed to her on Tuesday, February 14.
However, Mr Nhlapo said the community didn’t accept the email as a response; and he said the Saturday riots had been in objection to Ms Purchase.
Emma Louise Powell, from the office of the mayoral committee member for informal settlements; water and sanitation; and, energy, said in writing the day after Monday’s failed meeting said:
“Last night we were unable to convey any of these plans, save for the re-submission of our environmental impact assessment on erf 5131. We were met with serious antagonism and an unwillingness to allow us to properly convey our plans in a calm and ordered setting. We were given an opportunity only to respond reactively to heated comments and not to put pro-active plans forward, which is so unfortunate because we genuinely want to assist,” she said.
“cheap politicking at the expense of the community” had to stop.
“We will now embark on finding an alternative method to communicate our plans to and engage with the community, who I am sure, are largely very keen to work with us on finding real solutions.”
Ms Powell said that the Mayco members had visited the community of the Masiphumele informal settlement dwellers last night to provide real and workable solutions to further improve their living conditions as best they could.
Masiphumelele community activist Dr Lutz van Dijk said progress could only be achieved in the area if the City found strong partners in the community who were respected by most residents.
“The only unacceptable alternative is a new round of riots and violence which will be bad for all who live in this valley, especially for the children and youth who witness that their parents inside and outside of Masi have given up hope.”
Ms Purchase said the City had noted at the Monday meeting that it was busy with a resubmission of the environmental impact assessment application for the remainder of erf 5131 after this had previously been turned down due to the site being a wetland.
Ms Purchase said a small group of Masiphumelele community leaders and their supporters had been behind the Sunday morning protest on Kommetjie Road.
“Although SAPS restored order and the roads department cleared the road quickly, it was felt that it would not be in the interests of the riders to risk their safety and the decision was taken to divert the race via Black Hill,” she said.
One of the 17 people arrested, she said, had been wanted in connection with another case and was being held at Pollsmoor Prison, while the others had been released on bail after appearing in court on Monday on public violence charges.
“It is a great pity that these community leaders did not choose to have a peaceful protest as many of the Masi residents look forward to watching the race and supporting the Masi cycle team, “ Ms Purchase said.