16 May 2018

South Africa: Tensions Over Land Resurface in Hermanus

Frustrated residents in Zwelihle, Hermanus were preparing to march to the municipality on Wednesday after the fragile truce over the handover of land collapsed.

"We are going to the municipality to hand in a memorandum," said community leader Sicelo Gxamesi.

He said the community was concerned that some people were trying to gain traction for their political views on the back of their push for land.

A scheduled meeting between Overstrand Municipality councillors, community representatives and MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela collapsed on Tuesday night, after a tour of the proposed sites offered to landless residents.

Madikizela's spokesperson Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka said the latest developments were extremely disappointing, given the work everybody had put in to identify available land.

"We worked so hard from our side," said Makoba-Somdaka.

The delegation had travelled in Toyota Quantums in convoy around Hermanus to examine proposed sites, but when they got back to the municipality for a meeting, "everything went wrong".

"We had great plans," she said.

ANC member of the provincial legislature Cameron Dugmore posted a statement to say that he had been deployed by the party to assist at Tuesday night's meeting.

"Just as the meeting was about to start, a member of the community committee objected to the presence of another community member," Dugmore stated in a Facebook update.

In the uproar that followed, the community committee members walked out.

The meeting was postponed to May 20, and the community was urged to remain calm.

"We must resolve the land issue with discipline and peacefully. We do not support land invasions," Dugmore said.

The person whose presence they appeared to object to on Tuesday was Masibulele Jimlongo.

Jimlongo told News24 that he and some other community members felt politics was entering what was once an apolitical movement for somewhere to call home.

He said he noticed he was being isolated and sidelined in the process to validate housing lists and to identify suitable land for the building of their own houses.

Some in the community are tired of renting as "backyarders" and want the municipality to provide land where they can build their own homes and lay infrastructure such as lighting, water and sewer lines.

In March, a group tried to peg out stands around Zwelihle and was removed by the municipality. Fiery protests began and allegations of housing list irregularities for a new development next to Zwelihle were also made.

Jimlongo said he researched this and could prove the irregularities.

He alleged that the most recent collection of names for the lists, to validate who qualified for housing and land, took place street-by-street over the Easter weekend, when many people were either out of town or at church.

In addition, in the data-capturing process, alleged irregularities crept in and the list was not considered to be a true reflection of who qualified.

If anybody disagrees with what is presented to the council and the MEC, they are isolated, he claimed.

"Then you will see you are not being called to other meetings and you are not being informed," he said.

"They said I am no longer a committee member and I am not supposed to be at the meeting.

"I said people were elected by the community, not them directly.

"They co-opt people who will agree with them. So that's how it (the meeting collapse) happened."

In a press release claiming to be sent on behalf of the community committee, liaison officer Theron Mqhu accused Dugmore and DA councillor Elnora Gillion of disrupting the meeting.

It said Jimlongo and DA supporter Sindisiwe Nkohla were being "used".

Mqhu claimed Jimlongo had been misrepresenting the community and allegedly used their names to raise money for T-shirts, to align the land struggle with Dugmore to benefit the ANC's election campaign.

"As the community of Zwelihle, we stand with our words that our action is not politically driven but community driven.

"We reject any form of political interference or corruption that might compromise the purpose of our struggle for shelter."

The demands contained in the memorandum being taken to the municipality include: - that municipal manager Coenie Groenewald must resign; - that Dugmore must not attend their meetings; - the urgent placement of people in Schulphoek by the end of this week.

Friday is the deadline for a response.

Source: News24

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