Residents want site cleared

A pile of confiscated building materials at a municipal centre in Hoheizen is growing following a surge in land invasions, and the suburb’s residents says it’s a mess and a fire hazard.

Desmond Willows, acting chairman of Hoheizen Ratepayers’ Association, says they have been asking the City of Cape Town since October to clear the heaps of wooden poles and planks, zinc sheets and cardboard stored at the Anti Land Invasion Unit offices in Hoheizen Crescent.

He said they were tired of officials’ “broken promises” and wanted the issue resolved.

“This is the first thing you see when you come into the area. It is not only unsightly but a fire hazard.”

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, asked for residents to understand that the City was dealing with an unprecedented spike in attempted land invasions across the city.

“In three months, the City removed more illegally erected structures than it did for the entire 2017. There is thus a backlog of confiscated material. Operations to prevent the illegal occupation of land must currently take precedence. Material will be removed to landfill sites as soon as it is possible to do so,” she said.

Ms Limberg said the City could not dump the building materials at a landfill immediately because the owners had 21 days to reclaim them.

A contractor offloads the materials in separate piles — a pile for each land invasion — should their owners wish to reclaim them. “After 21 days, the City makes use of a contractor to load the unclaimed material and dispose of it at a landfill site or a recycling plant,” said Ms Limberg.

“Due to the daily operations, the various confiscated materials are in different stages of the 21-day cycle. Hence, there will always be some material which might be claimed and for which the City has to provide this facility for.”

Resident Fanie Becker said he understood the City’s challenges but a suburb was not the right place to store the materials.

“I am convinced that no other residential suburb within the City’s frame of reference will accept this course of business,” he said.

Mr Becker said the City had created a fire and health hazard and residents were complaining about rats in the area.

“The matter has been brought to the City’s attention and cannot be postponed indefinitely. I understand the officials’ dilemma, but the City clearly has a legal responsibility that is not being met,” he said.

Ms Limberg said a contractor would start clearing the material older than 21 days as from Monday April 21, unsightly trucks and trailers on site – which the residents had complained about – had been removed, and the grass was being cut.

She said they were trying to find storage space on site that was less visible from the street.

“The City asks residents for their understanding. There is absolutely vital operational work that is currently being carried out and all available resources must be used to prevent illegal land grabs,” she said.