South Africa: The Long Wait for New Housing for Blikkiesdorp Families

8 November 2019

A year since nine families were forced to vacate their homes in Blikkiesdorp after being threatened by other residents, eight of the families are still homeless, placing their hope in the new Symphony Way Development. But the City of Cape Town says it will take years for the long-awaited housing to be completed and Blikkiesdorp residents to be relocated.

The families, who had sought refuge in the Central Methodist Mission Church in Cape Town claimed that they were all beneficiaries of the upcoming development.

The Symphony Way Development is a partnership between the City and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA). Residents of three informal settlements on the fringe of the Cape Town International Airport - Blikkiesdorp, Malawi Camp and Freedom Farm - will be relocated for the airport to be enlarged.

Mayco Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi told GroundUp: "The City's Human Settlements Directorate has identified two sites along Symphony Way, which will be developed for state-subsidised Breaking New Ground (BNG) housing to enable the relocation of Blikkiesdorp residents, but given the scale of the development, this process will take a few years to be fully completed.

"The land where Blikkiesdorp is located will be incorporated into the Cape Town International Airport precinct eventually. As a result, Blikkiesdorp will not exist in the future as all of those who are legitimately residing there will have to be relocated," said Booi.

Former Blikkiesdorp resident Etienne Claasen, who was one of those who moved to the church, said, "It has been a year now since we were chased out of Blikkiesdorp, and not once has the City stepped in to help us find decent accommodation even though they were ordered by the court to do so.

"As far as I know, only one family from those that were living in the church has managed to secure accommodation. The rest are scattered around Delft, some are in other areas and some are living on the streets," he said.

Claasen said although he feared going back to live in Blikkiesdorp, he did go there from time to time and things had calmed down. "Some of the violence in the area has stopped but there is still a long way to go. All we are interested in now is the Symphony Way housing development, because that is our only hope. But seems as though we are not being kept in the loop about what exactly is going on."

But Booi disagreed that the City had done nothing for the families. "This matter was served before the court on 22 October 2018 and the City was ordered to provide alternative accommodation to the nine families in Blikkiesdorp. This offer was rejected by the nine families who, as far as the City is aware, have taken up alternative residence with family or friends. The onus is on the residents to update their contact details and physical addresses with the City."

Deidre Davids, ACSA corporate affairs senior manager, said the Symphony Way project was "progressing well".

"The City has established a Public Steering Committee in order to keep the community informed. Some weeks ago, we were in Freedom Farm providing them with an update on the housing development. Together with the team from the City we have been to all three communities to provide them with information."

Another former Blikkiesdorp resident, Ursula Felkers, said since leaving the Methodist Church she had been living in her car, parking wherever she could find a safe space.

"I have nowhere else to go and I am not going back to live in Blikkiesdorp. I was almost burnt alive in that place. I have seen people getting shot there. There is too much pain there. I refuse," said Felkers.

She said she did odd jobs to survive and her two children aged seven and ten were living with her mother in Blikkiesdorp. She said she was one of the beneficiaries of the Symphony Way Development but did not know what was happening with the project.

Booi said the City would comply with the court order which stated that "the applicants, who are already identified as possible beneficiaries of the proposed scheme at Symphony Way, are guaranteed their continued inclusion in the selection process".

But, he said, specific dates for the construction and completion of the project were not available because environmental and town planning processes had to be completed.

"The community will be informed of these timeframes once these have been determined via the established project steering committee," said Booi.

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