Happy Valley residents seek answers

Happy Valley residents want answers regarding their future on erf 1117.

The infamous erf 1117, also known as Happy Valley, has been a contentious issue since the tiny shacks popped up on top of the hill along the R27 in the early 2000s.

Neighbouring West Beach and Sunningdale, the informal settlement made up of no more than 19 shacks, sticks out like a sore thumb for those driving along the scenic route from Table View towards Melkbosstrand.

But the residents of the tiny township feel their needs as human beings have been overlooked and say they too want a better quality of life.

They may have become marginalised in the community in recent years but their roots run deep as previous generations lived on the land before the area was developed.

In a City of Cape Town presentation of Happy Valley, they describe the people living there as “descendants from generations of ‘houtkappers’ who obtained ‘legal’ occupancy by virtue of them residing there over a period of time”.

When Tabletalk visited the settlement last week, residents spoke about how previous generations lived scattered on the land before they were clumped together by the City a few years ago. They say they want answers from the City regarding their future on the land.

Francina Bodkin said it may not be known to outsiders but they have rules and regulations too. She said Happy Valley takes the flak for crime in the area and that this was unfair.

“We are blamed for everything. If houses are broken into, the criminals run through here and then we are blamed for the crime. When someone is involved in a crime we cannot allow them to continue staying here. We break down their shacks and they have to leave,” she said.

Ms Bodkin has been living at Happy Valley with her husband, Michael, for 11 years. She said before they were moved there they were living on a different spot on the same piece of land.

“Families are not together because children cannot stay here because there are no schools close by. They have to live with other family members where they have access to school. We have no address so we can’t receive letters. We are at a dead end,” she said.

Katherine February said there was talk about them being relocated to the Wolwerivier incremental development area but she is uncertain about how this would work.

“I asked our councillor Nora Grose if she found place for us and she said our names are on a waiting list for Wolwerivier. Most of us will die before we move there. I feel like we have been put in the wrong situation,” she said.

Grizelda Stalmeester has a four-year-old daughter that was diagnosed with brain damage and global development delay.

Ms Stalmeester has concerns about where they will be moved to as it will impact the special needs her child has. Her daughter goes to the Dunoon clinic once a month for physio and speech therapy and sees the occupational therapist.

“She can’t walk yet. It is up to the physiotherapy to make her bone structure strong. If we are moved to a place like Wolwerivier, I don’t know how I will get my child to the clinic. She also goes to Red Cross Hospital once every six months,” she said.

Colleen Petersen from the non-profit organisation TLC Outreach Projects has been working with the residents of Happy Valley for several years.

“I want to know what is going to happen to these people now. The elections are over and everyone complains about (erf) 1117 but nothing is being done.

“All the other informal settlements such as Rooidakkies, Takkergat, Skandaalkamp and Wolwerivier have received housing. What about these people? If the government can do it for others, they can do it for them as well. Everyone wants a quality of life irrespective of where they stay. These people don’t want to live like this forever,” said Ms Petersen.

She said factors such as Happy Valley having no postal address made it difficult for residents to find jobs as mail and ID copies have to be sent to family members.

Ward 23 councillor Nora Grose said she constantly has her finger on the pulse at Happy Valley to make sure that no more shacks pop up, (“Shacks demolished at Happy Valley”, Tabletalk, August 24).

Erf 1117 is currently owned by the national Department of Public Works (DPW), with whom the City has been negotiating to acquire the land.

Tabletalk sent queries to the DPW asking them how far discussions are regarding the sale of the land but they had not responded by the time this article went to print.

Last week Ms Grose issued a statement on the Ward 23 Facebook page responding to rumours about low-cost housing for the area.

“There are individuals making statements on public platforms that ERF 1117 will be developed by the City of Cape Town for low-cost housing. This is yet again a deliberate statement to cast doubt on this land and an attempt to create mistrust and uncertainty in our community,” she said.

Ms Grose reiterated this point to Tabletalk, saying that low-cost housing was not on the cards for the City. But in her Facebook statement Ms Grose said: “The City can never say it will never look at the options when the opportunity presents itself. In any event, let it be noted that any such decisions and transactions take years to negotiate. Should this happen the public will be informed and be afforded an opportunity to engage.”

When asked if there were plans to move the Happy Valley residents to Wolwerivier, Ms Grose said: “This is an ongoing discussion I am having with the Department of Public Works.”