I have seen no clear statement from the Overstrand Municipality to the residents of Hermanus (all residents) on the cause of the present unrest. Something has been circulated by the Ward 3 Councillor (thank you, Kari) on initiatives such as food parcels, but these are palliative measures; they are not aimed at resolving the root cause(s) of the disruption to life in Hermanus.

If I’m wrong, I offer my apologies, but if I’m correct that there has not been a clear municipal statement, I am forced to guess… and my guess is that the cause of the unrest is largely unkept promises on housing and municipal services.

Let me quote a few excerpts from the article from the Cape Messenger which I think will support my theory. I repeat that what follows was written at the end of March, four months ago. Bear that in mind as you read further:

As calm returned to Zwelihle in Hermanus, Western Cape MEC of Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela told furious residents he had identified a plot of land to be developed for backyard dwellers.

The land, which is in neighbouring Schulphoek, is the subject of bitter controversy in the area. In 2010 (EIGHT YEARS AGO!) land nearby was sold by the Overstrand Municipality to property developers Rabcav. As part of the deal, the developers were to have built housing for tenants in Zwelihle and the nearby township of Mt Pleasant. More than 4 000 houses, shops and community centres were to be handed over to Zwelihle and Mount Pleasant residents as part of the agreement.

Bobby von During, the Zwelihle Community Development Trust manager, said that when the land was bought by the development group Rabcav, there was no mention of any provisions for Zwelihle in the contract… None of the municipality’s promises to the residents of Zwelihle came through, he said.

ANC member of the Western Cape Legislature Cameron Dugmore said that there had been “a number of particular irregularities in regard to that sale”.

Dugmore blamed municipal mismanagement and corruption for the lack of adequate housing for residents of Zwelihle. “There is a lot of public land available,” he said, “but this municipality, for eight years has not acted on the order and I think that that has contributed to the crisis.” “What we want is to ask some questions directly to the minister,” Von During said. “But the minster only comes now when [protests] happen.”

Nothing much has changed – it took the current disturbances to bring Minister Bheki “Rambo” Cele out to Hermanus and what did he achieve? Why did government send trigger-happy Cele; why not send a Minister whose job is to look after the welfare of the masses – such as Minister of Human Settlements Ms Nomaindia Mfeketo or the Minister of Social Development Ms Susan Shabangu?

We want a peaceful solution; not another Marikana.

A final below-the-belt punch is contained in a sentence close to the end of the article which quotes Von During: “The land is partially occupied by the world’s twelfth largest milkwood forest and before any houses are built, the municipality will probably have to conduct a new environmental impact study, which could take up to three years.”

Firstly, imagine living in a Zwelihle shack and being told that trees have priority over your desire for dignity for you and your family! Secondly, EIGHT years have passed and how far has the Municipality got with an environmental impact study? Only thing that surprises me would be to read that residents have not flattened the milkwoods for firewood!

Nevertheless, Von During hoped that the new land allocations would mark a new era of land agreements in Hermanus. “If the municipality keeps their word, I think they will be able to help us. If they don’t, [protests] will happen again and it will be much worse.” Prophetic words!

If this sounds critical of the Overstrand Municipality, it is.

I ask the Municipal management to please accept that the absence of a clear statement from them to the residents of Hermanus on the cause of the present unrest understandably encourages one to legitimately draw one’s own conclusions.

Please don’t waste time proving me wrong; rather spend time informing the ratepayers (those who keep the Municipality in funds) what you believe to be the root cause(s).

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