Following the protests in Hout Bay recently, and in response to the negativity being spouted on Facebook, Deon Robbertze, a Hout Bay resident, used the hashtag #onehoutbay and called for Hout Bayers to pull together and find a solution instead of blaming each other for the troubles. The hashtag began to gain traction and by Wednesday, plans for a community meeting had been made.
From Friday 14 July 2017 to Monday 17 July 2017, several privileged white people and families immersed into the community currently forced to live at the Three Month Estate at the Soccer field, as a result of the fire in Hout Bay. Nompumelelo Citabatwa, a community leader and neighbour of one of the visitors, is very excited with the initiative. “I am just wondering what interesting conversations we will have,” she said on Friday.
In conjunction with this, there will be a community bonfire every night where the organisers hope to draw people from the greater community.
Deon Robbertze, the founder of #onehoutbay, who will be participating in the sleepover, said this event will reach far into realising his dream of uniting the Hout Bay community.
In March this year a devastating fire swept through the densely populated area of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay. Thousands of people escaped with only the clothes on their backs, most losing everything. Many of the residents of Hout Bay sprang into action and groups were formed to help deal with the biggest humanitarian crisis that the suburb had ever seen.
The City of Cape Town initially erected emergency tents on the local sports field while numerous organisations, some only formed on the day of the fire, began collecting and distributing clothes, food, household goods and cash. There was an overwhelming response as the people from Hout Bay and beyond, opened their hearts.
Due to the destruction, the City had an opportunity to install a long awaited infrastructure of services which they had previously been unable to do due to overcrowding. They referred to a process of Super-blocking and began the planning process of transforming the burnt wasteland into serviced stands, onto which the fire victims could be repatriated.
Long meetings were had with the stakeholders and it was agreed that the displaced people would be housed in temporary dwellings for three months whilst the super-blocking took place.
The temporary relocation area (or TRA) was established on the soccer field and other areas around Hout Bay. The housing units, constructed of timber frame and corrugated sheeting with a piece of black plastic as a floor, were mainly constructed on the sports field, which lies on the flood plain of the Hout Bay River. Three months came and went, and obviously, construction of the superblocks had barely scratched the surface. Clearly a huge blunder by the city, as whoever thought it would only take three months, was ill-informed.
Conditions were bearable over the first few months, but once the three months had passed and the Cape winter set in, it was a different story – flooded shacks, ice cold wind screaming through the corrugations, rising damp, condensation on the cold metal sheets and then, the stark realisation, that the promise of three months was absolutely inconceivable.
On Saturday July 01, Hout Bay awoke to blocked intersections, fires on roads and disgruntled crowds protesting against the ill treatment. One protesters sign said it all “No more promises – Just tell us the plan.”
The protest turned ugly later that day. Police, in full riot mode, fired rubber bullets and teargas into the crowds. It was like 1976 all over again, a bystander was overheard to say.
Things escalated by Monday morning when Hout Bay was in lockdown as no consensus could be reached. One of the protestors, a young man called Songezo Ndude had been shot with a rubber bullet. He was hospitalised and but tragically passed away later in the week. People were angry. By Tuesday, it had come off the boil and some kind of agreement was reached where the TRA people had to accept that three month timeframe was looking like 12 months or more.
Over the weekend, social media was awash with speculation, rumour and racism. As a result, Facebook groups including Hout Bay Organised resorted to disabling the comment section to halt the onslaught. The persistent sccusation was based around the idea that the fire victims were ungrateful for what the people of Hout Bay had previously done to help them.
The mood online, and indeed across the valley, was sombre and negative except for a few lone voices sympathising with the plight of the protestors. However, when things turned violent, it became increasingly difficult to condone and easy to criticise, particularly when no one was able to go to work on Monday morning.
As the situation calmed down, groups of concerned citizens began to take stock of what was required to alleviate the discomfort of the people living in the TRA. This developed into a community work day where, via the same social media channels, the “Valley” people were called to help as a show of solidarity.
The sense of goodwill took root and the idea of inviting privileged people to come and experience the problem first hand by sleeping over, was suggested by community worker, Welcome Witbooi.
A team was assembled and 67 Hours for Mandela Day was born.
Deon says that due to historical apartheid spatial planning, Hout Bay has inherited a set of circumstances that entrenches division. A recent post on the Facebook page of One Hout Bay succinctly describes what they are trying to achieve. Taken from an old proverb, it reads: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”.
Enquiries: Craig Dunlop