The City of Cape Town has admitted that demolition work, to make way for the controversial MyCiTi route, started on four Plumstead properties last year before the project was approved by the council.

The proposed demolition of the properties on Rotherfield, Lympleigh and Waterbury roads was approved a few weeks ago at the full council meeting. But contractors were photographed removing tiles and other features from the house on December 28 2014 and residents want to know how work could start without council approval.

Ian Neilson, mayoral committee member for finance, said last week, “The contractor was appointed so that demolition could commence immediately once the final council resolution (was) taken, in an effort to mitigate the ongoing cost of securing the relevant properties, which amounts to approximately R80,000 a month.

“Unfortunately, over the festive period, during which many staff members are afforded the opportunity to take annual leave, the incorrect information was given to the contractor to proceed with the preparation for demolition. This is regretted. The preparation for demolition was suspended with immediate effect in anticipation of the final resolution of council.”

Neilson said the demolition of property was governed by the Municipal Finance Management Act and followed a comprehensive regulatory process. He confirmed the required steps of public participation were followed and that there were no objections. The proposed demolition was also supported by the sub council. “The only outstanding step… was the final council resolution.”

But Plumstead residents, including tenants who face eviction now that the leases on their council-owned houses have been terminated to make way for MyCiTi infrastructure, have slammed the city for acting without following due process.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape government’s standing committee on transport and public works has agreed that mayoral committee member for Transport for Cape Town Brett Herron and the City of Cape Town be invited to a special meeting at the provincial legislature on February 17 2015.

Cameron Dugmore, ANC MPL, requested the meeting to address concerns about the lack of consultation between the city and affected residents, and to seek clarity on how much of the R4.1 billion that has been allocated from national funding will be used for the South and Main road couplets.

Last week, Dugmore said representatives of the South Road Families’ Association and Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, as well as the various taxi associations, would also be invited.

The city had said in November a detailed design of the Lansdowne/Wetton Corridor, “coupled with a community engagement process”, would result in the final locations of the MyCiTi stations and stops. “It is clear this consultation hasn’t officially started.”

The city made no mention of South Road or Wynberg Main Road during its announcement in November, he added.

The city had also said in November the corridor would be launched in 2020. “Yet, the city is banging down houses before there has been any consultation.”

But the city hit back at residents and the ANC for “spreading lies to serve their own narrow interests.” Herron said, “There is a pattern of misrepresenting the facts that is emanating from some members of the Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, and this appears to be designed to interfere with the rest of the community’s opportunity to make informed decisions based on the facts, when the time comes to commence formal public consultation.”

The association’s Kristina Davidson said they had been asking for clarity on the proposed road scheme since last February. “We have got nothing to do with the ANC.” The city had yet to answer its questions.

Herron said the South Road Families’ Association was also trying to block much-needed donor funding for transport improvements in Khayelitsha and Philippi.

“It is clear that the (association), supported by the ANC, are hell-bent on sabotaging the MyCiTi project in the metro south-east, regardless of who they harm in the process.”

Allegations by the provincial ANC that the project had not been costed was evidence of the party’s “desperation and ignorance.”

The capital costs had been fully funded by public transport infrastructure grants secured with support of the national Department of Transport. “These costs are fully disclosed in our grant funding application.”

The detailed design, when finalised, would identify whether the city needed to buy any more properties in the area.

Herron later said the city would consider the standing committee’s invitation if it received it. “At this stage it is nothing more than the ANC playing politics.”

Cape Argus