South Africa

CAPE OF FEAR

City of Cape Town to restart massive housing project stalled by extortion and murder

City of Cape Town to restart massive housing project stalled by extortion and murder
Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis addresses the community during the City of Cape Town’s open government event in Delft on 19 October 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Plans are afoot to restart the City of Cape Town’s biggest housing project — which stalled after extortion attempts and the murder of an official — in the first quarter of next year.

The City of Cape Town plans to restart development on the Symphony Way housing project in Delft early next year following its halt because of extortion threats and the killing of a city employee.

This was revealed by senior officials of the City of Cape Town during an information session with Delft residents on Thursday evening.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis told residents that extortion attempts had affected two projects in Delft: a road rehabilitation project and a housing project for some of the area’s most vulnerable residents. 

cape town housing extortion

Symphony Way Housing Project in Delft, Cape Town where a security guard was shot and killed and another wounded on 16 February 2023. (Photo: Suné Payne)

The mayor led a delegation of senior political officials and municipal officials to Subcouncil 5, which includes six wards in Delft and Belhar and is bordered by the Cape Town International Airport and the R300 highway.  

Symphony Way housing project 

In his opening remarks, Hill-Lewis said: “Our biggest housing project in the entire city — 3,000 units if I remember correctly, it’s a massive project — is currently no progress happening because of extortion.”

The project has a budget of R500-million to build 3,300 units for beneficiaries of Blikkiesdorp, Malawi Camp and Freedom Farm, which are informal settlements that house some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. 

Work stopped at the project in February after city official Wendy Kloppers was fatally shot at the site. This was preceded by attacks on security staff at the site, who were too scared to return to work.

Hill-Lewis reiterated that the city had offered a R1-million reward for information that would lead to the arrest of Kloppers’ killer or killers.

“We desperately want to finish this housing project, but at the moment we can’t because of extortion,” said the mayor.

“At the moment, we think, we estimate it’s probably going to cost us in the region of R50-million just for extra security for that contract,” he added. 

Hill-Lewis said an extra 190 houses could have been “built if we didn’t have to spend that money on protecting that site so construction can continue”.

Hill-Lewis also referred to the city’s anti-extortion campaign that was launched on 12 October. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape Town mayor takes on construction mafia, launches anti-extortion campaign and shifts millions to security

“We’ve really got the community’s help with extortion and that’s why we’ve launched the Kwanele! Genoeg is Genoeg! campaign. If you have anonymous tip-offs, we guarantee you they will remain anonymous. We will protect your confidentiality,” the mayor said. 

Carl Pophaim, the city’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, expanded on the mayor’s remarks.

“Just this month, we were meant to break ground at Acsa Symphony Way,” Pophaim said. After the project stalled, he told the audience, the city had been faced with a decision: either abandon the site or find a solution. 

“The City of Cape Town has found a solution: we started a new supply chain management process to appoint a new contractor. That has been concluded now and we should be ready to go back to site in the first quarter of next year with a new contractor,” Pophaim said, drawing applause. 

He said an additional R40-million for security had been secured for the site, through working with Western Cape Infrastructure MEC Tertuis Simmers.

“You know what my biggest fear is? I come here in the first quarter, March/April with a new contractor ready to go to site, ready to start working and the violence erupts and that contractor withdraws and that tender gets cancelled. It’s going to be very difficult for us to ever go and do that project again.”

Pophaim said the community needed to stand together to ensure the project doesn’t get halted by extortionists.

“We are going to say, as the mayor says, ‘Genoeg is Genoeg [Enough is Enough]’ and I promise you, we are going to get intimidated, they will try and extort from us, but we can ensure that this project delivers if we work together at Acsa Symphony Way.”  

Delft Main Road upgrades

In June, the City of Cape Town revealed there had been extortion attempts at the Delft Main Road rehabilitation project, between the Stellenbosch Arterial Road and Silversands Road. The contractor withdrew from the project after an employee was shot.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape Town risks losing R60m in transport funding due to ‘unconscionable’ extortion

“The contractor has refused to do the work because of safety concerns because of extortion in the area. So, unfortunately, we have to go back and get a new contractor,” the mayor said.

“We desperately want to spend this money in the subcouncil. We really want to upgrade this road.” DM

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