Anger over shacks

Summerville residents complained about the shacks being less than a metre from their homes

Scottsdene residents caught up in an eviction row with a private developer say the company duped them into illegally building shacks on City-owned land.

Peter Syster, founder of the Oostenberg Community Forum Committee – representing the residents – said a June 16 email from Calgro M3 Consortium had given the committee permission to build the 34 temporary shacks for 70 residents, including women and children, who had been living on the pavement outside the Calgro buildings on Long Street in Scottsdene.

He said he was told the shacks could go up on a site dubbed “Pocket 2”, behind First Avenue, in Summerville, opposite the Kraaifontein police station on Botfontein Road, but later he had learnt it was City-owned land.

He claimed there had also been an agreement to make JoJo tanks and mobile toilets available to those moving into the shacks.

Committee members had built the shacks on Saturday June 16 only to remove them four days later on Wednesday June 20.

“After putting up the shacks on Pocket 2, the residents refused to move into them because they did not want to move into ‘hokkies’ but demanded houses so we removed the shacks,” he said.

He added: “Calgro also promised us units. They said that when they are done with all their planned developments, they would then provide residents with houses.”

Northern News asked Mr Syster to send us proof of the email correspondence he claimed to have received but he did not respond to this request by the time this edition went to print.

The Oostenberg Community Forum Committee represented the 500 Scottsdene residents who were evicted after illegally occupying the Sunset Village Flats a new housing project, owned by Calgro (“Illegal occupants evicted,” Northern News, April 4).

In May, the Western Cape High Court ruled in favour of Calgro (“Protest flares at flats,” Northern News, May 17), upholding its eviction order.

Levinne Hollenbach, 31, one of those living under a sail outside the Sunset Village Flats on Long Street, said she and her family of eight had stayed under their sail after the shacks were built because she wanted a house not a shack.

“Mr Syster is our leader, and he will not lead us in the wrong direction. Calgro told him that we will move into the shacks for a short while and then they are going to build us houses.”

Ms Hollenbach then said, “We don’t have water, no electricity, and we make food if we get something from other people.

“We want the houses, not a ‘hokkie’.”

Meanwhile, the residents of Summerville were irritated that the shacks were put up less than a metre away from their backyards.

George Anthony, chairman of the Summerville Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association(SRRA), said his backyard faces Pocket 2 and he had only been alerted when he had heard a “continuous knocking noise”.

“I then looked and saw about 15 shacks almost right up against my boundary wall, less than a metre away.”

He added: “Mr Syster and his members were told to put up the shacks and were given permission from Calgro to put up two mobile toilets outside and green water tanks, but it was later removed.

“I have done some investigations on Google, those shacks cost R4000 and those water tanks are also costly. I don’t know where they got funding,” he said.

Lucian Sonnenberg, who lives in Castle Close, a cul de sac which turns off from First Avenue, said he was woken by a knocking sound early on Saturday June 16. “It would not be a good idea to have those people living here. It would be overcrowded.

“Luckily, there were no people in the shacks by Tuesday and Wednesday they were thrown down.”

He added: “I think they tested the waters by putting up the shacks to see if we would be allowed to live there but the SRRA decided we would deal with it in a better way,” he said.

Calgro CEO Wikus Lategan said he understood a private citizen had arranged for the shacks to be built for the families living on the street.

Asked if Calgro had promised the residents a place to live, he said: “The families living on the street have been made aware that the units, currently under construction, have already been allocated for private use and ownership and cannot be reassigned.

“Throughout the court proceedings, as well as after them, Calgro M3 has made proposals to the local municipality in order to find a solution to the current situation.

“We are as concerned as everyone regarding their current living conditions. We are continually seeking a sustainable solution to the housing shortage.”

Mr Lategan said Pocket 2 was owned by the City of Cape Town, but Calgro had development rights to the land, which he said had been earmarked for, among other things, “housing development, similar to that which is currently being constructed at Scottsdene”. Mr Lategan was evasive when asked if Calgro had organised for the shacks to be put up and if they had sent the email to Mr Syster.

“We have been advised that they (the community) coordinated and assisted with the building of the structures,” he said.

He claimed funding had come from a private individual, a certain Mr Bouwer, “who has a humanitarian perspective”.

He said “Calgro M3 Consortium supports the humanitarian view expressed, however plays no role further herein.”

City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said: “The City of Cape Town can confirm that structures were erected on this land before being removed by the residents. We await reports from the relevant departments regarding plans for the land and whether any action against the developer is necessary.”