The multi-party stakeholders’ meetings aimed at finding housing solutions for the Overstrand are set to continue under the guidance of Masizole Mnqasela, Speaker of the Western Cape Government and Member of the Provincial Parliament for the Overberg.
This follows a recent meeting between the new Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, the Overstrand Municipality and business leaders to discuss the way forward and to bring the Premier up to speed with the various challenges facing our communities.
According to the Premier’s spokesperson, Bianca Capazorio, Winde conducted his first official visit as premier to the Overstrand region and met with, amongst others, Mayor Dudley Coetzee and business stakeholders. “The meetings were centred around developing relationships between business and government in the region.”
With regard to the housing situation, Capazorio said the issues are complex and will not be easily solved. However, through the process of mediation under the guidance of mediator Nkosekhaya Lala, progress is being made towards a peaceful and lasting resolution.
“The mediation process has involved all of the major stakeholders, including the Municipality, Zwelihle Renewal, the Land Party, the DA, the ANC, the Business Chamber, various stakeholders and individual shack dwellers. Key to the process is building a relationship of trust and keeping the lines of communication open between all parties.”
During the first half of the year, much progress was made under the leadership of ex- Premier Helen Zille on the planning of a Better Living Model development on the Schulphoek site. This development will see the creation of well-located, affordable housing on the land, together with an upmarket section that will be used to subsidise the more affordable units. “In addition to providing affordable housing, this mixed-use model of government-subsidised housing will also create jobs during the construction phase,” said Capazorio.
One of the requirements of this development is that the land must be unoccupied. At the time, Land Party leader Gcobani Ndzongana promised to assist with the voluntary removal of squatters from the land in order to start the project. “The easier this process is, the quicker we will be able to deliver,” said Capazorio.
A verdict by the Western Cape High Court was expected on Tuesday 18 June with regards to an application for an eviction order by the owners of the Schulphoek land.
“We will wait on the court processes to run their course and we cannot anticipate the outcome. However, we want to see the issues resolved peacefully, in a way that benefits the community, and does not impact the economy,” said Capazorio.
Threats have been circulating on the social media pages of the Land Party and Zwelihle Renewal of withdrawing from the stakeholders’ meeting and the initiation of possible protest marches should an eviction order be granted.
However, says Capazorio, Lala continues to engage with the stakeholders and is in the process of setting up engagements for later this month. “We remain cognisant of the issues and continue to work towards finding a solution in which all parties are accommodated. Mnqasela established the stakeholder forum as a way to enable dialogue between all parties and has committed to continue doing this going forward.
“He has indicated that he will be inviting Premier Winde to one of the future stakeholder meetings to introduce him to the community and allow the various stakeholders to discuss their ideas, issues and concerns with him,” she said, adding that plans are also afoot to introduce the new Minister of Human Settlements, Tertius Simmers, to the community soon.
Mnqasela said that he is aware of the tensions surrounding the verdict on the evictions. “I can assure residents that we have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the situation we found ourselves in last year. I have had meetings with the Land Party leadership, in particular with Ndzongana, and we have come a long way in ensuring that law, order and calm will prevail.
“Talks with the landowners on buying the land back from them are at an advanced stage and we are close to signing a deal. When the government once again owns the land, we would be able to continue with our development plans to the benefit of all. Therefore, whatever the verdict of the court is, it should not have a detrimental impact on anyone.
“It is very important to us that throughout the processes that will follow, the human rights of all those affected are not infringed upon. At the same time, we are serious about upholding the rights of private property owners. I am confident that all affected parties will cooperate and that we’ll soon be able to continue with our deliberations regarding the development of the area,” said Mnqasela.
He also announced that he will stay on as the constituency head for the Overstrand for the next five years. The next stakeholders’ meeting will be held early in July.