Burnt hall to be rebuilt

The City of Cape Town will spend about R5 million to rebuild the Bloekombos community hall, which was burnt down in 2014.

At the time, the Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement was accused of torching the building during a protest demanding houses for backyarders – a charge the organisation has vehemently denied.

It has been almost three years since the incident, and the police have still not made a single arrest.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, said work on the new hall was due to start towards the end of January next year and would likely take eight months.

“The financial and staff resources allocated to this project have come at the expense of the provision and upgrading of community facilities in other areas of the city where they are desperately needed,” he said.

Ward councillor Luyanda Mbele said the hall had been torched by hooligans who had hijacked a service delivery protest.

“The hall was burned by criminals during the protest led by Ses’khona and backyarders demanding houses. There’s no such a thing that community members burned the hall. How can they burn it while it was supporting them? Some of them used to sleep in it when there were floods. City’s services were rendered in that hall,” he said.

“Today people struggle to get services. They have to go far, about 5km, to Kraaifontein or Brackenfell municipalities for services,” he said.

Mr Mbele hasn’t had a constituency office since he became a councillor – it was in the hall.

“The City vowed to find me an office, but still today nothing happened. When people need a stamp or want my signature, they call me and come to my house.”

He vowed the community would take full responsibility for the new hall. “I will ensure that the community will be fully involved from its construction and also safeguard it,” he said.

Ses’khona chairman Andile Lili denied his organisation had anything to do with the hall’s destruction.

“Our members were not part of the people who committed criminality. We are disciplined members. I was the one of the task team members who were deployed to keep peace in that area during that service delivery protest.”

The conflict, he said, had been between the residents and the former ANC ward councillor and current DA proportional representative, Siseko Mbandezi, but they would continue fighting for their demands.

“Our demands were not met. That is why we are going to have a massive march on October 31.”

The march would be to the offices of both Premier Helen Zille and Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete.

“We will go to Zille to demand houses for backyarders and people living informal settlements. And from there, the same day we go to Baleka’s office asking her to decrease politicians’ salaries, remove bodyguards and take state cars.

“These people can buy their own cars and hire their own bodyguards. Our government spends too much money on these people when they can take that money and provide services to disadvantaged communities,” said Mr Lili.

Mr Lili said it made no sense for Ses’khona to burn a community hall.

“How can we hurt our own people, because if we are burning community halls, we are hurting our people. These are there resources that we need to preserve as a community.”

Mr Mbandezi’s phone was off and he did not respond to emailed questions before this edition went to print.

Nokwakha Xawuka 45, said she could not wait to see the construction start as they had suffered enough.

“We have to walk a long distance to Kraaifontein municipality to get services. We are suffering. I wish the City could speed up the processes of building the hall. We are struggling even to get our councillor because he doesn’t have an office.”

Another resident, Mzuvukile Dyantyi, questioned why the police had still not arrested anyone for the torching of the hall.

“It’s almost three years and nothing has happened,” he said.

Kraaifontein police did not respond to questions sent to them.