Conflict in Hangberg
We in Cape Town – and around the country – watched with great concern as violent conflict over housing again erupted in the Hangberg community of Hout Bay last week.
The area – at the foot of the Hout Bay Sentinel – has previously been a contested site, and lies at the centre of intersecting interests between private developers, conservationists and SA National Parks, and Hangberg community residents.
In a visit last week, as reported by the Sunday Times, Premier Helen Zille demanded that newly-erected shacks in the area be removed, in accordance with an agreement reached between community members and the city council several years ago. However, plans to upgrade the area have been delayed, and new homes have been built in the interim.
A stand-off between police and local residents, as well as ensuing violence, was sparked when police arrived to demolish the structures.
In an interview the Cape Argus, COSATU provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich commented: “Heritage sites should be protected, so too should poor people’s rights and dignity. The houses of rich whites dot the slopes, but when poor people want land for their homes then arbitrary lines are drawn to exclude them, and this is justified as heritage. Could one not argue that scenes of violent forced removals were equally damaging to Cape Town’s international reputation?”
Ehrenreich also refers to a “process facilitated by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation two years ago that identified land and opportunities for the needs of people living in Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg. The city participated in this, yet has disregarded the findings, which represent the solutions that are supported.”
Media reports suggest that the conflict is now destined for the courts – in my mind, I have asked whether there may be parallels between the Hangberg context, and the declining in political tolerance towards poor people’s movements that Imraan Buccus describes in his recent article for the SA Reconciliation Barometer?
Looking forward to your thoughts and comments…