Pleading for better space

* Kobus Killan has been living at Victoria Lodge informal settlement for over 25 years.

A non-profit organisation’s attempts to provide better accommodation for the Victoria Lodge informal settlement’s early childhood development and homework centre in Southfield has been frustrated by them being sent from pillar to post by local and provincial authorities.

Stephen Langman, a Plumstead resident and director of the Honeybun Foundation, has been volunteering at the tucked away informal settlement since 2014.

The settlement has 21 shacks that house 60 adults and 25 children.

With only three of the 60 adults employed, Mr Langman has set up a creche that acts as an in-
formal early childhood development (ECD) and homework
centre for children at Victoria Lodge in one of the broken down shacks.

However, when it rains the shack floods and teaching cannot continue.

The classroom is so small the teacher can barely move around or even stand up straight while teaching.

In Mr Langman’s efforts to create a better classroom space, he says, he has been sent from pillar to post by the City of Cape Town and Western Cape government, having emailed over 20 different people since September last year to try and erect a new 6 metre classroom which will provide a better learning space for the children.

Mr Langman said first there was uncertainty about who the land actually belonged to. “First they said it was the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), so I contacted transport, then I was sent to social development. Then they sent me to the Department of Human Settlements for the Western Cape. I have been sent from pillar to post and we need this classroom to be set up.”

The land which Victoria Lodge is on only allows for 21 shacks to be erected and one has to apply in order to add another shack. Mr Langman feels very frustrated with the administration of the City and provincial government, who he says are delaying and restricting the erection of the classroom when it could be beneficial to the community.

Mr Langman said this is not his first challenge. When his organisation bought a jungle gym for the children in November last year, the City demolished it only two days after, saying that Mr Langman had not had the necessary permission to erect
it.

“It’s such a pity that they took the jungle gym down because it had a slide and monkey bars, everything. The children really enjoyed it and it kept them busy.”

The Honeybun Foundation is an NPO that is aimed at improving the lives of disadvantaged individuals through self-sustainability, health, education and growth. They also have a vegetable garden at Victoria Lodge.

Mr Langman said while he understands that Victoria Lodge is a controlled informal settlement, and that they do not wish to have an increase in the number of dwellers, the City and provincial administration are prohibiting temporary infrastructure that could actually be beneficial to the small community.

“The organisation has already purchased materials for the classroom. We’re not asking for them. I have been emailing the City and province since September 5 last year and I am still not winning. I don’t know what to do anymore. The classroom would not only act as an ECD in the mornings and a homework centre in the afternoons, I have also proposed that in future, the classroom provides a space for teaching of a trade or two to the parents in the evenings. It would serve so much for this community, if they would just let me put it up. Speaking to you is my last hope.”

Mr Langman’s said his biggest fear is erecting the classroom and then being slapped with a R50 000 fine.

The informal settlement has been there for over 25 years, said Kobus Killian, who was one of the first residents to be placed at Victoria Lodge. “There are people who have been living here for over three generations. When I first came here I didn’t have any kids, now I have seven,” said Mr
Killian.

He also said parents in the community walk the older children to school in the morning while the younger ones stay behind at the crèche. “I think it’s good for them to learn during the day because we didn’t have that chance,” he said.

The City’s media office said their planning department did not have a record of any enquiries on Victoria Lodge and that the land belonged to the Western Cape govern-
ment.

Mr Langman said provincial Department of Human Settlementss spokesperson, Marcelino Martin, called him on Monday September 2, saying that someone would get back to him about his proposal. Mr Martin, however, did not respond to requests from the Bulletin for comment by the time this edition went to print.

The Bulletin will, publish the department’s comment when we receive
it.