Maverick Citizen

CIVIC GRIEVANCES

Frustration rising in Cape Town’s Hanover Park community over ‘hostile’ ward councillor

Frustration rising in Cape Town’s Hanover Park community over ‘hostile’ ward councillor
Representatives of several civil society and community organisations in Hanover Park have come forward with complaints about Ward 47 Councillor Antonio van der Rheede. Among them are Roberto Stemmet, representative of the Hanover Park Concerned Residents Against Crime Committee; Avril Andrews, founder of the Alcardo Andrews Foundation; Jesmina Stemmet, CEO of Youth Impact and Sustainable Solutions; Nasief Tape, treasurer of the Hanover Park/Philippi Community Policing Forum (CPF); and Weldon Cameron, secretary of the Hanover Park/Philippi CPF. (Photo: Tamsin Metelerkamp)

A collective called the Hanover Park Concerned Residents Against Crime Committee handed the City of Cape Town a memorandum listing 19 grievances against ward councillor Antonio van der Rheede in February. Three months on, members have seen little action to address their complaints, despite the city’s assurance that an independent investigator is handling the matter.

Several civil society and community organisations in Hanover Park have come forward with complaints about Ward 47 councillor Antonio van der Rheede. Many claim their grievances go back years, yet no real action has yet been taken to address them.

In early February 2022, a collective called the Hanover Park Concerned Residents Against Crime Committee handed a memorandum to the City of Cape Town that listed 19 grievances against Van der Rheede, according to Roberto Stemmet, a representative of the committee that spearheaded the compilation of the memorandum. 

The submission, which called for Van der Rheede’s “continuous misconduct” to be addressed, was signed by more than 6,000 community members and supported by more than 20 local non-profits.

 

“We want engagement, proper engagement, with sincerity [and] caring for the community,” said Ashraf Allie, chairperson of the Hanover Park Cricket Club, on what community representatives wanted from the City of Cape Town.

“… there has to be consequences — you can’t list grievances and there’s no consequences.”

However, consequences have been lacking. According to Allie, attempts to reach out to the city have been met with standard responses stating that the municipality is “guided by a prescribed process”.

While the city told members of the committee that the investigation had been handed over to an independent body, when Maverick Citizen spoke to committee representatives on Tuesday, 7 June, none had yet been approached by an independent investigator.

Felicity Purchase, Speaker for the City of Cape Town, confirmed that an independent investigator had been appointed to look into the complaints against Van der Rheede, but that the city did not know how long the investigation would take.

Community grievances

The memorandum says that the Ward 47 community is “totally fed up” with five years of ongoing struggles.

“We are determined to bring positive change to Hanover Park for the sake of our youth and all our citizens, businesses and organisations,” stated the document.

Among the grievances listed in the memorandum are:

  • The lack of official public meetings held by Van der Rheede;
  • An improper selection process for the Ward 47 ward committee;
  • Van der Rheede’s refusal to work with organisations and individuals who challenge his ideas;
  • Abuse of power by Van der Rheede.

Maverick Citizen contacted Van der Rheede about the allegations, but he declined to comment.

Stemmet said Van der Rheede had failed to call any official public meetings in the past five years:

“[He] never had meetings with the full public. He had meetings with his little group. There was no official notification of meetings, no public notification, nothing.”

 

The Hanover Park Concerned Residents Against Crime Committee attempted to summon Van der Rheede to a meeting on 10 January 2022 to discuss its concerns. He did not respond.

“I think that was our way of still wanting to say [to Van der Rheede], ‘Look, we are prepared to work with you. So, we want to engage with you, we didn’t come to put up a fight or anything’,” said Avril Andrews, founder of the Alcardo Andrews Foundation

“That was our way of saying, ‘Come speak to us. How can we work together?’” 

The submission of the memorandum was the last resort for frustrated community members.

soup kitchen

The Alcardo Andrews Foundation, founded by Avril Andrews, runs a soup kitchen in Hanover Park, Cape Town, that provides about 600 portions of food to those in need each day. (Photo: Tamsin Metelerkamp)

“It took a while for me to really go this far, to speak out against the councillor, but I think we tried all [other] avenues,” said Andrews.

The Hanover Park Cricket Club also attempted to work with Van der Rheede, said Allie, before he “showed his true colours”. In the absence of the councillor’s cooperation, the body has begun working with other community organisations in the area, such as the Alcardo Andrews Foundation and Youth Impact and Sustainable Solutions.

“It makes common sense for us to come together and collaborate and try to make, if not the ward councillor, his leaders understand that we are willing to work with anybody provided there’s love, care and sincerity for wanting change in the community,” said Allie.

A key concern of the community, according to the memorandum, is that Van der Rheede “cuts off” those who associate with people or organisations he has refused to work with.

When Andrews first established a relationship with the councillor, he allegedly told her there was a group of people in the Hanover Park Community Policing Forum (CPF) that he was not willing to work with, labelling the group as “gangsters”.

However, the nature of Andrews’ work — which includes running the Moms Move for Justice campaign for mothers who have lost sons to gang violence — means she needs to work with the police and, by extension, the CPF.

“There’s nothing I could have done because the nature of my work is with SAPS. So, that is when [Van der Rheede] started blocking me… then he decided he’s not working with me,” she said.

Being cut off by Van der Rheede can mean being blocked from accessing project support and local civic amenities, according to the memorandum.

“The ward councillor himself, he has forever been hostile towards any community member that challenges him,” said Weldon Cameron, secretary of the Hanover Park/Philippi CPF.

“A lot of our people have been short-changed. A lot of people have been deprived of opportunities.”

Personal litigation

There is currently litigation between Stemmet and Van der Rheede. In November 2021, an initial criminal charge of intimidation was laid against Stemmet by Van der Rheede, but was later dismissed in court.

In a letter from Stemmet’s attorney, issued to Van der Rheede on 30 March 2022, it is claimed that the criminal charge was “based on false, unfounded and unsubstantiated third-party information”. The letter declared Stemmet’s intention to sue for defamation — a case that is still ongoing.

On 12 April 2022, an attorney’s letter issued on behalf of Van der Rheede denied the validity of the defamation claim against the councillor. It further stated his intention to pursue another criminal charge against Stemmet, for allegedly threatening Van der Rheede’s life. This case is ongoing, with Stemmet denying the charges.

Van der Rheede declined to comment on either case.

Members of Hanover Park civil society have indicated their continued support for Stemmet.

Said Cameron: “I need to just categorically state… that we as civil society organisations, we have elected Roberto [Stemmet] to spearhead this project for us, to get the attention of the city and everybody else, around the poor conduct of this ward councillor.”

“It’s been personalised now — [Stemmet has] been criminalised and everything else that goes with it. But I want to reiterate that we have elected him to speak on our behalf.” DM/MC

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  • jcdville stormers says:

    Genuine commitment sells itself,has their been any positives attributed to van der rheede.Is it a clique type of set up?It seems as if these people have legitimate complaints.The DA boasting transparency, should heed this complaints.

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