RESIDENTS UP IN ARMS OVER PRASA’s PROPOSAL TO RELOCATE ILLEGAL OCCUPANTS ON THEIR CENTRAL LINE TO MACASSAR, CAPE TOWN

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RESIDENTS UP IN ARMS OVER PRASA’s PROPOSAL TO RELOCATE ILLEGAL OCCUPANTS ON THEIR CENTRAL LINE TO MACASSAR, CAPE TOWN

The residents of Ward 109 in the City of Cape Town are outraged by the PRASA’s plans to relocate illegal occupants from their central railway line to Macassar. They accuse the PRASA and the HDA of deception.

Sound bite – English: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dqztUokdihfEKOO1b-vP7fOH80Ens2PQ/view?usp=drive_link

Klankgreep – Afrikaans: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t-f0ymumaX0WnDVhzQsWhbzm8fqZc6P3/view?usp=drive_link

Ward 109 residents within the City of Cape Town (City) express outrage following the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) confirmation of plans to acquire land in Macassar from private owners to relocate illegal occupants currently residing along the PRASA’s central railway line.

Approximately 5,195 households have established informal settlements along the PRASA central railway line, comprising unauthorised structures erected at Langa Station, Philippi Station, and Khayelitsha Station. This encroachment has significantly impeded the PRASA’s operational capacity, leading to the suspension of operations on the central railway line. Commuter services have also been halted since October 2019 due to this encroachment and the prevalent issues of vandalism, theft, and safety concerns.

In 2022, residents of Ward 109 were informed of the PRASA’s plan to acquire land in Macassar from private owners to relocate some of the illegal occupants on their central railway line. The residents promptly requested an urgent meeting with the PRASA on August 2, 2022, to address the issue. The PRASA’s implementing agent, the Housing Development Agency (HDA), attended the meeting and represented the PRASA.

During the public meeting with residents, the HDA provided assurance that premature assumptions were being made. They emphasised that neither the PRASA nor the HDA had definitively decided on the purchase of the land in question, as other potential sites within Cape Town were deemed more plausible. The HDA reiterated their commitment to transparency by stating that if negotiations were to resume regarding any parcels of land within Macassar for the relocation of illegal occupants along their central railway line, residents would be promptly informed through another public meeting.

On Sunday, March 24, 2024, the PRASA featured prominently on national television news, where it was reported that the PRASA intends to relocate 2000 households from the central railway line to previously identified sites in Macassar. This announcement signifies a notable departure from the purported commitments previously articulated by the PRASA, acting in conjunction with its implementing agent the HDA. Residents have voiced sentiments of betrayal, alleging that they were deceived by the PRASA and the HDA, as they were not apprised of these developments in accordance with the promised transparency. Residents says no further public meetings were convened to disclose the reconsideration of land parcels within Macassar.

In 2022, following the public meeting, residents submitted a petition to the PRASA, signed by no fewer than 2600 individuals. This petition vehemently opposes the PRASA’s plans to relocate the illegal occupants from the PRASA’s central railway line to Macassar. Since the submission of the petition and the public meeting, residents have not received any further communication from the PRASA or the HDA.

Residents of Ward 109 have commenced mobilisation efforts following the televised confirmation of the PRASA’s intent to proceed with its land acquisition plans in Macassar from private owners, aimed at relocating illegal occupants from the central railway line to this area. Additionally, they have launched a new petition, which has garnered signatures from no fewer than 4000 residents. Plans are also underway for a lawful protest to express residents’ discontent and vehement opposition to the PRASA’s proposed action.

Let there be no misunderstanding: residents are eager for the central railway line operated by the PRASA to resume service, as this would greatly enhance the lives of our community members. What residents do not support is the relocation of the illegal occupants to Macassar.

Residents have expressed concerns that if the PRASA’s plans are realised, it would severely impact those already residing in Ward 109. They have noted existing challenges, such as inadequate services from the South African Police Services (SAPS) due to resource shortages. Moreover, the ward has experienced frequent power supply disruptions stemming from Eskom’s capacity constraints. Additionally, services from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) have been withdrawn due to capacity issues, despite residents’ efforts over the past two years to reinstate them. The influx of another 2000 households would exacerbate these challenges, rendering life in the ward untenable. Furthermore, it will also have a dire impact on many other services.

Residents have voiced significant concerns regarding what they perceive as a pattern of disregard for legal procedures by the PRASA. This sentiment was underscored when the City issued a contravention notice to the PRASA on December 22, 2023, citing unauthorised actions in relocating illegal occupants from the central railway line to the Stock Road site on December 7, 2023. The PRASA allegedly failed to adhere to the City’s bylaws by neglecting to submit a town planning application for the change in land use from transport zoning to residential use.

Residents are troubled by the potential establishment of a precedent wherein the PRASA circumvents established processes. Such circumvention would effectively deny residents of Ward 109 the opportunity to oppose the PRASA’s land use application for the Macassar site, which the PRASA hopes will be rezoned from agriculture to residential use, in a formal public participation process that accompanies such an application. These concerns are further amplified as the PRASA has already reneged on their commitment to the residents of Ward 109 by failing to inform them of their intention to continue pursuing the purchase of land in Macassar from private owners, as promised in a public meeting, for the purpose of relocating illegal occupants from the central railway line to Macassar.

“I am absolutely infuriated by PRASA’s blatant disregard for their promises. Back in 2022, they assured us that they would prioritise engaging with our community before moving forward with this land acquisition. Yet, here we are, witnessing their unilateral actions without as much as a courtesy consultation. The people of Ward 109 are seething with a sense of disrespect and neglect. We refuse to tolerate this flagrant betrayal. PRASA is about to face the fiercest opposition they have ever encountered. We are prepared to stand our ground and fight tooth and nail against this” – Community Leader, Waseemah Flaendorp

End

Issued by:
Peter Helfrich
Ward Councillor, Ward 109
City of Cape Town

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