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Housing activist wants to lodge criminal complaint after being told to ‘shut up’ by Cape Town mayor

  • A Cape Town man is mulling over whether to lodge a criminal complaint against the city’s mayor, Dan Plato.
  • Aslam Richards says he is still in shock after Plato told him to “shut up” when he asked questions about a housing development.
  • The Dido Valley housing project is intended as a restitution project for people forcibly removed from Simon’s Town.

A Cape Town man is thinking about lodging a criminal complaint against the city’s mayor, Dan Plato, after being told to “shut up” when he asked questions about a housing development.

Aslam Richards said he was disappointed and still in shock after the incident on Friday.

He said he was merely asking for a reply to a memorandum already submitted to the City of Cape Town last October.

Richards wanted clarity on who was going to be allocated the 600 houses in the suburb near Simon’s Town. 

“That was when he turned around and intimidated me. He pointed a finger in my face during a time of Covid,” said Richards of the incident on Friday.  

“He told me ‘Shut up, Shut up’, and some other things I can’t remember.”

He said the police also allegedly grabbed him by the throat. He said he could not understand why he was regarded as a threat, given that the mayor had personal protection. 

“I am very disappointed. I am going to press charges,” said Richards, adding that he had not been able to concentrate at work after the incident. 

Richards explained that the full ramifications of the Dido Valley subsidised housing project became evident last year when service lines and roads were being laid.  

He said the community wanted to know who was going to be moved into the houses.

He said the community was upset that it seemed people, who hailed from the Eastern Cape, were being prioritised over people from Ocean View.

He said he started asking questions last year, but was not given clear answer, despite handing over a memorandum to demand more information during a march in Fish Hoek in October last year. 

He alleged that, once it became evident the government was going to build houses for some of the residents of Redhill informal settlement, there seemed to be a large-scale spate of land invasions by people he described as “coming from the Eastern Cape”.  

He explained that, if the new residents of the Redhill informal settlement got houses first, it would be at the expense of people who had been on the housing data base for decades, and possibly in favour of “land grabbers” from the Eastern Cape. 

In an article to commemorate forced removals in the area during apartheid, the People’s Post reported that Simon’s Town was declared a “White” area on 1 September 1967. 

The forced removals had already started in 1965, with the community of Luyolo in Simonstown, which mostly comprised black workers from the Eastern Cape hired to extend the railway line between Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town, moved to Gugulethu, near the Cape Town International Airport. 

Families from Red Hill, Dido Valley, Glencairn, the Kloof, the Kraal, Seaforth and Simon’s Town Central were also evicted and moved to Ocean View, Grassy Park, Retreat and Heathfield.

Last October, under the banner of the Simon’s Town and Surrounding Area Forcefully Removed Fighting Back group, there was a march demanding that the Ocean View residents be entitled to the Dido Valley homes first. 

Ocean View, Aslam Richards

Aslam Richards (Supplied)

In that video, Richards is seen telling Plato that parents have died heartbroken over the forced removals. 

“We are not going to leave it at that. Ocean View will not stand by and let people from the Eastern Cape get our land,” he said in that video. 

However, since the march in October, he said they have not had answers over the houses in Dido Valley.

Last October in a video, the City of Cape Town explained that the Dido Valley housing development would provide 600 houses for first-time homeowners.  

Beneficiaries from the nearby Redhill informal settlement, the old Simon’s Town waiting list, and the Luyolo land claimants group would be assisted.  

The City of Cape Town said the development was being done via a People’s Housing Programme process, in terms of which the beneficiary communities appoint and manage their own contractors. 

A list of proposed street names have also already been approved, and the City said the streets will be named after the clan names of families that formed part of the Luyolo and Redhill communities, such as Mafuya, Cona, Somlotha, Lombo and Manzana streets. 

Streets were also named after Peter Clarke, an internationally renowned artist, and the academic and activist, Albert Thomas.  

Both were people of colour, originally from Simon’s Town.  

The City of Cape Town said Plato and Mayco member for community safety JP Smith were on a walkabout with Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) groups, as part of efforts to make the area safer in spite of gang activity. 

The statement said the walkabout went well, but “political opportunists” disrupted it.

“I was disappointed that some political opportunists sought to disrupt this community walkabout and showed complete disrespect for the NHW members, but thankfully the political opportunists left after they had filmed their propaganda and we could continue with those residents who care for their community,” said Plato in the statement.

The ANC caucus in the City of Cape Town was appalled by the incident.

“This was the mayor behaving like a gangster and not like a mayor should. We demand that the mayor apologises for telling a resident ‘just shut up’. Mayor Plato is a disgrace to Cape Town. He should go – now,” said Fiona Abrahams, ANC caucus spokesperson.

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