Khayelitsha lights mostly on but concerning signs of decline

Nokubonga Yawa and GroundUp Staff
Khayelitsha lit by streetlights at night.
Nokubonga Yawa and GroundUp Staff

Following several reports published on GroundUp on the broken street light problem in Khayelitsha, particularly along Lansdowne Road, several social justice organisations protested and the City repaired the lights. In the last two weeks we have checked the street lights. While most remain on, there are signs that the situation is getting worse.

Lansdowne Road is the major road running through Khayelitsha. In February, following GroundUp’s reports, Equal Education counted the number of lights working along Lansdowne Road and reported that of the 108 lights along the stretch from Baden Powell Drive to Mew Way Road, 93 working (or 15 were broken). Last night GroundUp reporters counted the broken lights along this stretch and there were 29. 1 While the road is mostly lit, and much better lit than it was before February, the growth in broken lights is a worrying sign. Also, although we didn’t count this, a significant minority of the large masts that light up the township were off.

In February City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille said that the power box for high masts lights had been vandalized weeks before. She also said that she wanted to look into the possibilities of using solar-powered lights, replacing traditional bulbs with LEDs, and computer systems to detect malfunctions as soon as they occur. She did emphasise that vandalism is a serious problem but she promised that the City would keep the lights burning in Khayelitsha.

City officials we spoke to appear to be convinced that vandalism is the key problem. Councillor Danile Khatshwa of Ward 96 (Makhaza in Khayelitsha) acknowledged that the lights were fixed in the area and that he had also noticed that lights are starting to go off again. “Eskom is connecting the electricity to poles and the City is responsible for maintaining them,” he explained. He said that five high masts lights had never been connected since they were put up. He also said that there was only one police van patrolling in sector two of Makhaza.

City of Cape Town acting Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services Brett Herron said that the City has instituted a number of ways to try and combat vandalism:

  • Copper Cables are being replaced with Aluminium cables.

  • The cabling is being installed deeper.

  • Ground-mounted control boxes are being replaced with pole-mounted control boxes.

  • The lighting system is being left on 24/7.

  • The copper theft unit is kept informed of losses in Khayelitsha.

He said that the street-lighting network on all major roads in Khayelitsha had been restored in March, and since then no outages had been reported to the City’s Fault Reporting Centre. He was not aware of lights being out on Lansdowne Road. Herron informed us that the cost of repairing the street lights between 21 January and 22 March was approximately R3 million and R570,000 for the high masts. “These costs will increase as more data is captured,” he said.

Malwande Mjongelwa lives in Makhaza 31 section. Her house is not far from Lansdowne road. She takes a taxi from Lansdowne road when she travels. She is an activist and has been a member of Social Justice Coalition (SJC) since 2009. She said, “Crime is increasing, people get robbed and I am a victim as my brother was stabbed in the dark and got dumped behind the bus stop.” She said that the lights that were fixed earlier this year were now starting to go off again and that some were never fixed. She said the area was too dark and things were going to get worse with the approach of winter. “We have no one to report to. Our ward councillor never shows up to us as community members. I don’t even know what the councillor of ward 109 looks like. This is bad because even police are not there to do their job. Community members are very angry and they are now taking law into their own hands. Just last week a boy was caught stealing a cell phone and he was going to be dragged by a taxi but because we were there as members of SJC we would not allow such things to happen.”

Mjongelwa continued, “I would like to see the ward councillor, and more development taking place in the area. There should be cameras installed because of the high rate of crime and robberies taking place.”

The councillor for ward 109, where Mjongelwa lives, is John Heuvel. Despite several attempts this year to get hold of him directly, GroundUp has never succeeded.

Another ongoing concern about the lighting along Lansdowne Road is that a large part of the road has no street lights at all. The SJC has raised this with the City, including in a memorandum handed over at a march earlier this year. SJC Deputy General-Secretary, Gavin Silber, told GroundUp, “The mayor’s office failed to respond meaningfully to the memorandum we handed over and we are planning to follow up again soon.”


  1. Note, our counting methodology was different to Equal Education because we counted polls with two lights as two while Equal Education counted these as one and if one was broken, counted that as half. 

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