In a time marked by violent unrests regarding land claims, an agreement was reached on Wednesday evening, 23 May 2018, between Overstrand Municipality and the Overhills Community representatives which will at least ensure that the destitute will not be denied shelter whilst both parties work on formulating a proper agreement regarding the illegal occupation of land bordering the informal settlement of Overhills.
At the same time, community leaders representing the Overhills and Proteadorp communities also agreed to prevent the erection of any further illegal structures in the area and to do their utmost to ensure that informal settlements are kept in check.
This agreement can, however, at best be described as temporary because the investigation currently being conducted in the Kleinmond area to find suitable land for community development and a means to formalise informal settlements is ongoing.
Given that several earlier meetings with representatives from the community had little to no effect on preventing the erection of further illegal informal structures in the area, the latest outcome can be regarded as a remarkable milestone.
This breakthrough came as a result of a meeting held by Overstrand’s Municipal Manager, Coenie Groenewald, with representatives of the informal settlements in Overhills, Poppedorp, Proteadorp and Mountain View (Riemvasmaak). Groenewald had the support of the Director: Community Services, Roderick Williams; the Director: Infrastructure and Planning, Stephen Müller; the Director: Protection Services, Neville Michaels, and the Area Manager, Desmond Lakey as well as several other officials.
Local ward councillors Fanie Krige (Ward 10) and Grant Cohen (Ward 9) were also present, along with several community leaders who included Christian Mshequ, chairman of the Overhills Community Committee, Ayanda Tyulu, a ward committee member representing the local soccer body, Mr Zalisamadinga Kondlo, a ward committee member representing the association for backyard dwellers, and Solly van Wyk and Petrus Karelse, to mention but a few.
To begin with Groenewald referred to a Supreme Court order which sanctioned the local sheriff to remove squatters from certain areas and to destroy their shacks. Despite the fact that this sanction was exercised no less than two weeks ago, shacks kept on cropping up.
Following a consultation with the Executive Mayor, Dudley Coetzee, and the Municipality’s top management team, a decision was reached to cease actions by the sheriff in the interim until such time as the community has been consulted on improved co-operation and possible solutions.
After the Municipal Manager’s opening remarks, Mr Williams suggested that an additional area be set aside for temporary informal housing (equipped with an ablution block and watering points) subject to several conditions.
These conditions entail, amongst others, that:
1. Structures outside of the designated area be relocated within an agreed time (4 June) to within that area and that community leaders must agree upon ensuring that no new structures will be erected outside the designated area.
2. Only people who are registered on the housing waiting list as verified by Province and the Municipality will be allowed to erect structures. No-one who has already been a housing beneficiary will be allowed to erect a temporary structure. The affected families will also be vetted against the subsidy database to determine if they have benefitted before.
3. All structures will be numbered in accordance with the Municipality’s system.
It came as a pleasant surprise that the Overhills representatives, after a caucus, not only agreed to accept the proposal, but also offered to institute the following measures:
They will ensure that those people guilty of “shack farming” will scale these structures down and will prevent people with sizeable properties from being guilty of “shack farming” in future.
- No-one will be allowed to hold and let more than one structure.
- This will be done with the support of the community leaders and will follow a step-by-step process
- Anyone in need of a garage shed will have to submit the necessary application in future.
- That in the process of relocating/re-organising informal households will each maintain a one meter building line around his/her informal unit for various safety reasons. In other words there must be an open space of at least two meters between any two adjacent shacks for the provision of emergency services.
- A special attempt will be made to house Proteadorp’s people, where several people are living in Wendy houses in their parents’ backyards.
- It was also agreed that it is important for the informal settlement communities of Overhills and Proteadorp will take joint responsibility with community leaders and the Municipality.
- The Municipality accepted this offer, but pointed out that some exceptions will have to be made where large families are involved.
The parties have ended the meeting in good faith and welcomed the partnership.
The committee will report back to the community of Overhills, Poppedorp, Proteadorp and Mountain View on 29 May 2018, and if an agreement can be reached, a needs assessment and lay-out plan will follow.
Implementation will naturally be phased in.