Week of housing protests at Sir Lowry’s Pass

Residents say their area is neglected and their councillor ignores them

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Photo of protesters
Rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas were used to disperse housing demonstrations on the N2 by residents of Sir Lowry’s Pass village. Photo: Velani Ludidi

On Monday, residents of Sir Lowry’s Pass village continued with the protest action they started last week on Wednesday, blocking the N2 with rubble and burning tyres. Rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas were used by police to disperse the demonstrators. The protesters are demanding houses. They say there has been no housing project in their area for the past 19 years.

“My eldest son was not born the last time we had RDP houses in Sir Lowry’s Pass,” said Rebecca Erasmus. “We have been patient for a very long time because we believed our turn would come. We have been seeing on the news that other areas in Cape Town are getting houses. What about us?”

She referred to Mfuleni, Blue Downs and Strand housing developments.

Community leader John Michaels said, “We have been calling for the councilor [subcouncil 24 chairperson and ward 84 councillor Stuart Pringle] to come and lead the fight for housing but what has he done? Ignored us and left us with no choice but to protest.”

“Families are sleeping on top of each other in Sir Lowry’s Pass, the population has grown, and winter is coming. We are living in inhuman conditions here. Pigs are better [off] than us,” said Michaels.

South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) chairperson John Brits said, “Every time when we call him [Pringle] he has an excuse. Today the people said they are tired. There is land here which belongs to the municipality and it is not utilised.”

Pringle denied avoiding residents. “I have always been and remain open to discussion and engagement around any issue which is of concern to the residents I am elected to represent,” he said.

He referred the issue to Councillor Malusi Booi. “He has taken very strong leadership on the projects both underway and planned and budgeted for in the area concerned, and more importantly, he was the keynote speaker at the public meeting on 21 February in the Sir Lowry’s Pass Village Hall to report back to the community regarding these projects.”

Booi, who is Mayco member for human settlements, said the City had two housing projects planned for the Sir Lowry’s Pass area but he could not say when these projects would begin.

“The City is aware of the acute need for housing opportunities across the metro and we are making every effort to address this matter and provide basic services in a planned, fair manner wherever possible within the constraints being experienced,” said Booi.

Booi met residents at 7pm on Monday. Michaels described the meeting as “disappointing”.

Brits said the meeting had “no conclusion”.

On Tuesday morning, Booi refused to comment on the outcome of the meeting and said the City’s media office would be in touch with GroundUp. At the time of publishing, late Tuesday afternoon, no response had yet been received.

Update: City issues press statement by Booi

I have met twice with members of the Sir Lowry’s Pass Village community following unrest there to listen to their concerns and to see whether an amicable solution can be reached. Being in the area has afforded me the opportunity to engage with residents and to listen to the community’s queries and concerns. The leadership has asked that a follow-up meeting be held.

It has, however, been emphasised that any violence or illegal actions during protests are absolutely condemned.

The City of Cape Town has two housing projects planned for the Sir Lowry’s Pass Village area. More than 700 housing opportunities have been planned which will provide accommodation to more than 2 100 qualifying beneficiaries. Construction is expected to begin before the end of the year, if all goes according to plan.

It has been conveyed to Sir Lowry’s Pass Village community members that their grievances are noted but that interference in the construction of these projects in any way or actions that may be illegal or to the detriment of the community at large will not be acceptable.

The City is aware of the acute need for housing opportunities across the metro and we are making every effort to address this matter and provide services within a planned and fair manner wherever possible within the constraints being experienced.

We are looking at identifying more land parcels that can be developed in this area and also in other areas across the metro.

We look forward to working with these community members in a constructive manner to ensure that the law is upheld and that we are able to provide assistance to our people in the most fair and structured way possible.

I will continue to meet with residents across the metro in good faith.

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TOPICS:  Government Housing

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