Waterloo Green Residents Petition; with Deputy Minister

Public Works and Infrastructure

15 November 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure met with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and petitioners from Wyberg in Cape Town to discuss the issue of the demolition of two derelict houses in Waterloo Green, which were posing a safety risk to Wynberg residents.

Obstacles prevented demolition of these houses due to factors such as their open market value and historical significance. Solutions brought forth by residents included leasing the property to schools in the area.

DPWI resolved to lease the property to other user departments, such as the Department of Defence or Department of Justice, for office or accommodation purposes. However, no definite resolution was reached due to an incoherence in the communication between the Department and the Wynberg community.

The Committee was critical of the Department for not maintaining the property. Members asked for clear timelines for the Department’s actions. The Department apologised for letting the buildings deteriorate.

Meeting report

The Chairperson officially opened the meeting. She said the Committee would hear a petition from the Wynberg community which was referred to the Committee as it concerned public works and infrastructure. The Committee would hear the petition, ask the Department to respond. Members would then engage. Thereafter, a report on the process will be compiled for debate by the National Assembly.

Apologies noted were from the Minister, and Ms Nyeleti Makhubele, Acting Director-General, Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).

Ms Bernice Swarts, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, made opening remarks recognising the DPWI’s ownership of the properties mentioned. Present was Ms Penny Penxa, Regional Manager: Western Cape, who introduced her delegation prior to presenting.

Mr Emile Langenhoven, Ward 62 Councillor: Cape Town, introduced himself and asked Mr I Seitlholo (DA) to present the petitioners’ delegation.

The Chairperson asked why the Committee had not been informed regarding Mr Seitlholo’s leading of the petitioners’ delegation and asked that proper committee procedures be followed.

Mr Seitlholo clarified that he was only the submitter of the petition and that the petitioners’ delegation would be led by Mr Langenhoven, who was present alongside community members. Mr Seitlholo went on to explain that it remained important that Members of Parliament recognised their duties in addressing matters faced by the public concerning departments through mechanisms such as petitions. He added that the purpose of the current meeting was to address the state of DPWI-owned properties, especially those in the Wynberg region.

Mr Langenhoven asked that he be guided on Committee procedures seeing as he was unfamiliar with them. He stated that his presentation was meant to display the historic significance of the now degrading DPWI-owned houses. This degradation issue was not new and had been ongoing even before Mr Langenhoven became Ward Councillor.

Waterloo Green Residents Petition

Mr Langenhoven presented Waterloo Green’s Devil’s Peak from what it had looked like in 1890 to 1910, to what it presently looked like from December 2011 to January 2023. The Waterloo Green property had been used as a prostitution and drug trafficking hotspot, despite a South African Police Services (SAPS) Garage being directly opposite the property, as per a submission by a community resident in 2016. Upon further introspection, it was discovered that the number “28” had been inscribed on one of the doors, indicating prison gang affiliation. Police vehicles were also seen parked in the yard, raising the question of what the property was being used for. The old thatch caught on fire on 2 November 2017, destroying the thatch roof completely.

By 2016, aerial photographs overlooking the property properly depicted the illegal occupation and dilapidation of the building. Makeshift materials had been used to cover holes in the roof, with most parts of the house exposed from the top.

The second property, which was the Victorian House, had been illegally occupied, with parts of it now used for rubbish dumping, which led to a rodent and pest problem, alongside the exposure of drug paraphernalia. It had been cleaned to the value of R72 000 in 2018, but this did not help as it was soon illegally reoccupied. Two more fires were reported in 2019.

These two properties were in perfectly secluded areas, allowing for criminality to take place undisturbed. The properties had been reported to the City of Cape Town as problem properties and identified as DPWI property. Solutions brought forth by residents were to lease the properties to the schools nearby, but the City rejected this, and leases were put on hold. Letters were then sent to Parliament to understand the issue regarding leasing. It was here that it was discovered that the DPWI was not certain of which properties it owned, and an audit was underway. The third property was in relatively good condition, located on a cul-de-sac, which puts it in the public eye. The government’s attempts at security personnel were rendered useless as criminal activity continued.

Mr Langenhoven further presented images of the Victorian House’s condition as of January 2023, which was littered and vandalised. He also showed a crime statistics sheet from 1 January 2022 to 31 October 2023. (see presentation)

Ms Makhubele had been in communication with the residents of Waterloo Green and a resolution to demolish the building had been reached, and this was supposed to take place as of April 2023, however, nothing had been done. Problems had arisen with the Heritage Council, seeing as these buildings were also heritage sites.

The recommendations made by Wynberg residents were as follows:

  • Subdivision of the property into four separate erven.
  • Single residential subdivision for each of the three houses as they stand.
  • Properties to be disposed of on the property market.
  • Potentially utilise the remaining house, in the short term, for educational purposes or dormitory for students living far from Wynberg schools.
  • The four schools utilise the remaining area for parking or other purposes.

Mr Langenhoven asked that two community members be given the opportunity to present their issues, and these Mr Gabriel da Matta and Ms Samantha Wilcox Diedricks.

Mr da Matta, a long-term resident of the area of Waterloo Green and an estate agent in the area, spoke about the level of criminality due to these properties which were worth at least R33.4 million – revenue the government could do with. He made a presentation alongside his discussion.

The Chairperson requested that all presentations made be submitted to the Portfolio Committee prior to the meeting so that they know what is to be presented and may deliberate effectively.  

Ms Wilcox Diedricks touched on the issues surrounding theft and substance abuse in the area. Residents were expected to drive out and seek other public parks in the City to enjoy simple leisure activities like walking their dogs or exercising.

See attached for petition

DPWI Briefing

Ms Penxa stated that the property in question had been given to the SAPS for utilisation and recent developments on the property included the SAPS garage. The SAPS gave the DPWI the property back in 2016/17; these houses were already illegally occupied, with much deterioration having already taken place. In 2021, security personnel were put in place.

The Department of Defence (DoD) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) had been engaged, and DoJ had displayed interest in the third house for office space. The DoD was also interested in the property as it was close to the Number 2 Military Hospital, and any agreements were subject to budget adequacy. The demolition issue was not a simple process and required inter-departmental engagement and an investment analysis would have to be put in place before resolving to demolition. Heritage processes would also have to be observed in the demolition process.

Tenders to procure heritage consultants had been pursued with no success in 2022. The City was consulted for assistance and Ms Penxa asked that Mr Denzell Fortuin, Senior Architect, DPWI, expand further on the issue.

The City of Cape Town was disinterested in the demolition resolution since the property was of heritage significance. A state attorney had been appointed to facilitate the eviction of the current illegal occupants and a panel of cleaners was still in the process of being established.

Secular 135 allowed for departments to put properties out on the open markets. DoD would be given a 21-day timeframe to respond on whether they were still interested in the property.

Ms Penxa apologised on behalf of the Department for letting the property deteriorate to that extent.

See presentation attached for further details


Ms A Siwisa (EFF) asked why the property had not been converted to rehabilitation centres, seeing as the area of Wynberg was plagued by a drug abuse problem.

Mr W Thring (ACDP) stated that this was all a consequence of the DPWI’s ignorance of its asset register and lack of asset maintenance. He added that the Department allowing its assets to deteriorate was putting residents at risk. He suggested that leasing department properties would generate great revenue, but that was going to waste due to departmental neglect. He mentioned that property development would also yield great results and asked for definite timelines.

Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) asked how long the SAPS had used the Wynberg property, why the Portfolio Committee had not been informed about the change of custodianship and inquired about the measures put in place to ensure that the property was suitable for use by other user departments after the vacation of the SAPS.

She asked about the condition the SAPS left the property in and the penalty for damages incurred. She asked why the SAPS was not present to account.

She inquired why the DPWI had not considered any of the recommendations made by Wynberg residents.

She asked about the progress of the eviction process and if the occupants had alternative accommodation. Ms Van Schalkwyk lastly asked for clarity on the government’s disposal policy which outlined how properties were disposed of.

Mr Seitlholo was dissatisfied with the Department’s lack of a comprehensive written presentation and stated that the Regional Manager’s presentation was incoherent, despite being given adequate time to prepare for the meeting. He lastly asked Ms Penxa to address the letter concerning the demolition process included in the annexure submitted on 18 February 2022.

Mr T Mashele (ANC) stated that this petition was an eye-opener for the DPWI’s asset negligence as there were many similar cases. He expressed concern over the fate of the property and asked what was the guarantee that it would not be privatised if it was leased to the school. He further asked how petitioners felt about the expropriation of land with compensation, and said that if they were for it, the land could be expropriated to serve the needs of the schools.

The Chairperson clarified that the subdivision of properties was not the responsibility of the DPWI or the Portfolio Committee, but rather that of the concerned municipality.


Mr Langehoven explained that despite the duty of subdivision being that of the municipality, the DPWI needed to make an application for a subdivision so that the City of Cape Town would execute it. The erasure of history was painful to witness, and it would be very expensive and time-consuming to try to recover the property, and there was no certainty that the DPWI had the time or funding to fulfil this. He did, however, encourage any attempts to recover the property.

To help combat the issue of substance abuse, he mentioned that an initiative called “U-Turn” was underway, and it would provide services such as counselling, rehabilitation, and other forms of assistance to the homeless and drug addicts. He said that the property did not have the capacity to combat the drug problem in Wynberg as it needed a more holistic approach.

He stated that the DPWI’s Acting Director-General, at the time conversations around the demolition of the property started, indicated on a document that funding to execute the demolition was available; the only delay was the pending approval by the Heritage Council. The resolution was to have the DPWI’s professional architects try to reach a resolution with the Council and Ms Penxa had not touched on the progress of this. He added that the incoherence in the Department’s communication with the community was creating a culture of distrust.

To answer the question on expropriation of land, he said that the community of Waterloo Green believed in expropriation with compensation, which is why they encouraged putting the property on the open market to generate revenue for the government.

Ms Wilcox-Diedericks explained that the user departments already in the area did not maintain the properties effectively. For example, the military base did not cut down grass, leading to one of the widespread fires that broke out in February 2023. She stated that there was no recovering any of the property’s historical importance, it was simply damaged beyond repair, and the only resolution was demolition. Any further attempt to recover the property would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Ms Penxa stated that the presentation by the DPWI would be made available to the Portfolio Committee. She asked that the Department be given an opportunity to present clearly with outlined motives and defined timelines in another meeting. She asked Mr Fortuin to respond to questions regarding demolition.

Mr Fortuin touched on the Department’s failure to procure a Heritage consultant, which led to them assessing the properties independently and providing the City of Cape Town with their findings. The City objected to demolition, and the Western Cape Municipality was the next entity to be consulted. He mentioned that this was underway. He said that the need for a heritage consultant was still there as architects did not have the capacity to perform consultancy duties.

Deputy Minister Swarts acknowledged that the DPWI was to blame for the level of distrust from the community members as the Department’s negligence had put their lives in danger and apologised for the Department’s ill preparation and lack of a coherent presentation.

She noted the issues raised in the petition and promised that the Department would work hard to alleviate the issues highlighted.

The Chairperson thanked the petitioners noting that the issues touched on what the Committee had repeatedly said – that DPWI must deal with its property portfolio correctly. She reiterated that the Committee would compile a report on the engagement today for further debate in the National Assembly. The Department would need to provide its written report within seven days. The report needed clear timeframes. 

Minutes of a previous meeting were considered and adopted.

[The meeting was adjourned.]


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