10 May 2017

South Africa: City of Cape Town Defends Gugulethu Rezoning

The City of Cape Town defended its decision to rezone a portion of land for housing upgrades in Gugulethu, as angry residents cordoned off a section of the suburb with burning barricades on Wednesday.

"The intent of the project is to upgrade the informal settlement on the land by subdividing it into 144 serviced sites and providing a permanent civil engineering services to the site," Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; Energy, Cllr Xanthea Limberg said in response to questions from News24.

"Appropriate land use rights were given to facilitate the upgrading so to benefit all registered families that are currently residing on the site by providing one erf/single residential site for each family."

Residents started protesting last Friday by shutting down the Vukukhanya Primary School, to the dismay of the province's education MEC Debbie Schafer who expressed concern over the learning needs of the 700 pupils there.

By Wednesday morning some residents of Section 4 set piles of tyres and rubble alight to block entrance and exit of that part of Gugulethu, and also started a fire outside the school to keep pupils and teachers out.

Their protest was one of several that raged across South Africa on Wednesday as communities across the country used flames to draw attention to their complaints.

Community leader Mandla Naselane said the Gugulethu issue dated back to 1991, when the land was rezoned for the development of community institutions.

However, political violence displaced a number of people in nearby KTC and they "borrowed" the land in Gugulethu until the coast was clear.

According to Naselane the site had been zoned for "community institutions" before the displaced people arrived, and as they either found somewhere else to live, or returned to their homes, new people moved in and built shacks on the site, putting dreams of a community hall and park on hold.

However, it later emerged that the land had been rezoned for housing and in 2015 Gugulethu residents were told that their objection to the change of plan from community institutions to housing had failed.

Naselane said the residents were not opposed to housing, but felt they should have been consulted so that they could at least find out who was going to benefit from the housing, and when they would get their community facilities.

He added that they desperately also needed a library and a satellite police station in the area as well as a creche.

But Limberg said the City of Cape Town, which owns the land, followed a public participation process "throughout the life cycle of the project, from inception to date".

The rezoning and upgrade of the area known as Tambo Square informal settlements would include the construction of roads, sewer and water reticulation connections to the individual plots, a storm water system to alleviate flooding, and electrification.

Limberg said amenities have already been provided in the broader Gugulethu area in line with the applicable legislation and policies.

She urged residents to raise their grievances peacefully, adding that they know which channels to follow.

"We are disappointed with the turn of events and the efforts by some to halt this project. Our doors, however, remain open for engagement and all parties are aware of this."

In the meantime the city is in the process of launching legal proceedings to protect the land and will continue speaking to the community, she said.


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