Big hopes for houses

DA proportional representation councillor Bernie Clarke, project manager Bernardus Wentzel, from the Citys human settlements department and Sub-council 23 manager Raphael Martin.

A piece of land in Strandfontein that’s bigger than 130 rugby fields could soon be transformed into a new suburb, and hundreds living in squalor nearby hope to one day call home the houses to be built there.

The site, Erf 1212, is bounded by Spine, Strandfontein, Baden Powell and Witsands roads. The City of Cape Town has dubbed it the Strandfontein Integrated Housing Development.

Gouwa Swail, a community leader from Masincedane informal settlement, believes the houses can’t come soon enough.

“Every year in winter it floods here,” she said.

The settlement where Ms Swail has lived for 14 years is home to some 500 people living in 100 shacks.

She spoke to the Plainsman on Thursday September 5, the day after a City official sketched the proposed development during a public meeting at the Strandfontein community hall.

Bernadus Wentzel, a project manager from the City’s human settlements department, said the development would include “low-cost” to “higher-end” housing.

But it’s unclear at this stage how many houses will be built.

Depending on feedback from the community, the development could include shops, businesses, schools clinics, libraries and places of worship, said Mr Wentzel.

Sub-council 23 chairman Elton Jansen told the meeting of about 100 people – many of them from the informal settlements – that they would be “part of this process”.

He added: “That is the only promise that I can make.”

The 132-hectare site is 1km wide and 2.7km long. There are three informal settlements on the site: Masincedane, City Mission and Sewende Laan. It’s also home to various NGOs, sports fields, properties owned by religious institutions, disused holiday resorts and more.

There are isolated pockets of squatters living in between the various properties.

“I hope that we are going to be included. I want to know what is going to happen. I will attend meetings,” Ms Swail said.

Ruwayda Curnow, is the chairperson of the Strandfontein Informal Settlement Committee and resident of Opperman’s Oord, one of the disused holiday resorts.

She said she and her family had moved into a cottage at Opperman’s Oord in 1993, when her late husband, Qiyaam, had been appointed as caretaker. At the time, Spoornet had still owned the resort, which was built in 1974.

In the years that had followed, she said, the resort had fallen into disrepair and some of the chalets had been broken down brick by brick or occupied by squatters.

Since then, the informal settlements had mushroomed, she said.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Jansen urged locals to join a project steering committee and told them not to doubt the process unless they were part of it.

“Treat this as a new relationship. Give the process the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

Resident Yvonne van Niel said it was “cool” that there would be a project steering committee, including various members from the community having oversight and being consulted on the development but that a council committee would override their decisions.

Sub-council manager Raphael Martin said nothing would happen without the sign-off from the community.

“It’s not officials. It’s not consultants. It’s you as the community. You will give input, you will decide in terms of what is best because you as the community know first and foremost what it is needed and what it’s you want,” he said.

“Everything will come to the project steering committee in consultation with the officials and they will obviously appoint consultants as well,” he said.

Mr Wentzel said the site would be assessed to determine how the land could be used optimally.

The meeting, he said, was the start of a long road to developing the area and would require the input of residents on both sides of Spine Road (informal and ratepayers).

The City would start working with the community to build a framework for the project over the next year, he said.

“This is a major development, and it will play a big role in this area over time,” he said.

The framework would determine what types of houses could be built and the municipal services needed.

Strandfontein Ratepayers’ Association will hold its annual general meeting at the community hall, in Cruiser Street, on Wednesday September 25 at 7pm. For more information, call Ephraim Stanfield on 082 833 4283.