FEATURE | CAPE TOWN 

Ward 74: Beautiful valley with an ugly problem

A shortage of housing remains the hot-button issue in Hout Bay

Photo of washing lines and council flats
Blankets hang to dry on a sunny winter’s day outside the new 71-unit council flats, the first built in Hangberg in decades to alleviate the growing housing shortage in the community. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN
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The craggy mountains that form the flanks of Hout Bay create a majestic, ocean-facing amphitheatre that is Cape Town’s Ward 74. But what looks at first like an idyllic, wooded valley is split residentially along stark racial lines.

By far the bulk of the land, known as The Valley, is predominantly owned by white people, ranging from the very wealthy to the comparatively wealthy. The coloured community live in council flats and backyard shacks in Hangberg on the mountain slopes above the harbour. The black community reside in the ramshackle Imizamo Yethu township, where shacks proliferate on the north-facing slope of the valley’s south-western abutment.

Violent crime

Crime has led to racial tensions. “White residents alleged that criminals were hiding in Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg, even though shack dwellers were also deeply affected by the increased crime,” notes Stellenbosch University student Walter Fieuw in his 2004 Master’s thesis, Informal Settlement Upgrading in Cape Town’s Hangberg: Local Government, Urban Governance and the ‘Right to the City’. Crime peaked at “900 property-related offences, 754 violent crimes and 17 murders (Joubert, Mail & Guardian, 23/02/2007)”.

The establishment of the Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch saw a drop in crime, but “less acknowledged”, noted Fieuw, were “community initiatives for combating the rise of drug related crime affecting their own communities as much as the broader community”.

Most crime categories have seen a decrease in incidents over the last decade, but many residents of The Valley remain concerned, with violent robberies, such as the one that resulted in the death of 23-year-old Conrad Griss, who bled to death in his father’s arms after being stabbed in the neck by burglars in April 2010.

As a result, many homes in the The Valley have high security barriers topped with electric fencing, more in keeping with some of Johannesburg’s crime-afflicted northern suburbs than a Cape Town village.

Crime is top of the list of concerns for the white Hout Bay community, and is also high on the list for Imizamo Yethu residents who are arguably the ones most on the receiving end.

There were 203 robberies with aggravating circumstances reported by Crime Stats SA in 2015.

The current DA ward councillor, Marga Haywood, has resigned her post, and the new DA candidate is Rob Quintas. He says combating crime is a continuous battle and the Community Police Forum (CPF) is “well supported and attended with a proactive Neighbourhood Watch programme that engages youth to prevent them getting involved in gang and criminal activity”.

Housing shortage in Imizamo Yethu

Imizamo Yethu is a dense cluster of shacks interspersed with a couple of hundred brick or concrete block homes, clinging to a steep slope. The majority of residents are Xhosa speakers, many of them originally from the Eastern Cape. With a population of 15,538 people counted at the 2011 census, it is also the largest community in Ward 74, making up 42% of the ward’s population.

The first 2,800 people were accommodated on 417 serviced sites on 18 hectares of land in 1991. In the 25 years since then, according to figures provided by City Mayco member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, only 864 houses have been built, 303 of these constructed in 2003 – before the DA administration of the city – by the Niall Mellon Foundation run by the Irish businessman and philanthropist.

Van Minnen says the City counts 1,268 informal structures in Imizamo Yethu1 and a further 487 shacks in Imizamo Yethu2, commonly known as the Dontse Yakhe informal settlement, situated above the original development line for Imizamo Yethu.

A lack of sanitation services in Dontse Yakhe means water soiled by raw sewage flows down the slopes through people’s yards and even floods the small library which is on the same property as a creche. The library has been closed for over year, apparently due to books becoming water damaged.

While this library remains closed, the library in Hangberg received a R2.5 million upgrade in 2015, including a lift for disabled people. It has five working computers with internet connections.

Excluding Dontse Yakhe, the other 1,268 informal structures and 864 houses exist on an area originally meant to house 450 families.

Livingstone Mapukata, who is standing for the African People’s Convention, is one of the original Imizamo Yethu inhabitants. “I have been here 27 years, but I have never stayed in a brick house, always in a shack,” says Mapukata.

Although he and his neighbours have access to water and electricity, he points to a stream of dirty water running down from Dontse Yakhe, through his yard and the neighbouring creche. “I’m sick all the time because of this stinking water,” he says.

He says the community has a catalogue of broken promises from City authorities, starting with former ANC mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo in 2004, who promised that the 16 hectares of old forestry land, which acted as an apartheid-style buffer zone between Imizamo Yethu and the main road, would be developed for housing.

There are now belated moves afoot to provide further housing. The City announced on 23 May that development is finally set to go ahead on the old forestry land.

“It is foreseen that more than 900 housing units, comprising a mixture of subsidised houses and community residential unit flats will be built for qualifying beneficiaries from the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement,” states the City on its website.

Completion date is set for June 2019. Van Minnen says an additional 143 units are “pending completion” in the Masakhane Bantu Phase 1 and 2 project.

Photo of a small building
Unlike the Hangberg library, which was recently refurbished, the decrepit library in Imizamo Yethu has been closed for about a year because books were apparently being damaged by water running down from the Dontse Yakhe informal settlement. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN

Housing in Hangberg

Hangberg, on the slopes of the Karbonkelberg above the harbour, is characterised by row houses, council flats, backyard shacks and small informal settlements with a small area of freestanding homes, mostly white-owned, known as The Heights.

Hangberg was created by apartheid spatial planning in the 1950s when all residents identified as coloured or Khoi-San, some of whom had been living in the valley since the earliest days of habitation, were moved into an area comprising 2% of the available land in the valley. Thus Hangberg, with a population of about 6,500, is the smallest community in the ward, but its roots reach deepest in the valley.

On a sunny school-holiday morning, children race down the streets to the harbour on all manner of wheeled contraptions, forcing strolling tourists to jump out of the way.

While yachts that only the wealthy can afford jostle their masts along the yacht club quay, the operational part of the harbour belongs to the workers. Everyone else has to step out the way as fishermen and dock workers from Hangberg get on with their work of welding, sanding, loading and repairing.

In Hangberg itself, men peer into the innards of decrepit cars, groups of women chat outside backdoor spaza shops, and rastas arrange herbs and roots on the pavement. Many families here had their traditional livelihoods destroyed by the fishing quota system introduced in 2005.

There is little to indicate the violence that erupted in September 2010, when residents blockaded the streets to prevent the City’s anti-land invasion unit, SAPS and Metro Police from advancing to demolish shacks built on the mountain fire break.

Authorities responded with force, resulting in numerous injuries; reportedly four Hangberg residents lost an eye after being hit by rubber bullets. Residents said many of those injured were not involved in the protest, but were trying to protect school children from the line of fire.

There has been little inward migration to Hangberg, but the lack of housing opportunities to accommodate the naturally expanding population sees young men and women stuck in cramped conditions with their families long after having finished school.

Only this year did the City complete the first 71 new rental units to alleviate the pressure, part of a total 300 new units promised by Mayor Patricia de Lille a year ago.

“Planning on the other sites in Hangberg is still in progress,” says Van Minnen.

Transport

The MyCiTi bus system connects Hout Bay directly to the city centre and has been a key development.

“MyCiTi has made a huge difference. Schoolkids from Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu can now catch public transport to Camps Bay and Seapoint schools,” says Quintas.

Subcouncil chair Demetri Qually and Quintas say upcoming development in Hout Bay include adding a fourth leg to the second traffic circle in Main Road to connect directly to Baviaanskloof where the weekly Hout Bay market is held.

There are also road upgrades planned for Imizamo Yethu.

“There’s too much encroachment on the roadway,” says Quintas. “We have engaged with the community and with the leaders. We have gone to the encroachers and are working towards a negotiated solution to the problem and looking to upgrade roads, lights and water.”

He said two open days for community engagement had been held on this matter.

Photo of kids playing soccer
Primary school children from Hangberg play soccer on the new synthetic pitch provided by the City in 2012. About 100 children made use of the field during the school holiday while they were participating in a holiday programme organised by the provincial government. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN

Sports

Two synthetic football pitches installed in 2012 at a cost of over R12 million in Hangberg and just below the entrance to Imizamo Yethu are well used.

Cecil Abrahams, who is coordinator of the MOD (Mass participation; Opportunity and access; Development and Growth Programme run by the Western Cape province) was overseeing soccer training for about 100 children at the Hangberg field when GroundUp met him.

The MOD programme runs in the afternoons after school and from 10am to 2pm during the holidays, said Abrahams. “They play soccer and do arts in the multi-purpose centre, and music and dance. We want to keep them out of trouble.”

While the synthetic pitch is a welcome upgrade to the sandy uneven field that preceded it, he says more sporting facilities are needed. He and fellow MOD programme co-ordinator Graham Opperman have shipments of softball and basketball equipment but no facilities on which to use them.

“There are also no sports fields for the girls,” he said.

GroundUp also found about 300 children on the Hout Bay Sports Ground just below Imizamo Yethu, participating in a holiday crime prevention programme organised by the United Apostolic Faith Ministries.

Pastor Manuel Purazi said, besides soccer games, the children took part in life skills workshops, did beading and art, and were given lectures by the local SAPS.

Although they received funding from the Department of Community Safety to cater for 150 children, which included providing breakfast and lunch, more than double that number of children turned up and they stretched the budget rather than turning them away. “I’ve been going to local businesses to gather extra food,” he said.

Purazi pointed out three trees they had planted next to the sports field and said the children also picked up litter and helped wash police vans as part of keeping them busy.

Portrait of a man
Rob Quintas, who has resigned from his job at Claremart Auctions, hopes to be crowned DA ward councillor of Ward 74 after the 3 August Local Government Elections. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN

Upcoming election

Ward 74 is a relatively safe DA seat, having garnered 61% of the provincial vote in the 2014 national government elections in which 70% of the 20,858 registered voters made their mark.

In the last municipal elections (2011), the DA had 58% of the vote with the ANC trailing at 38%.

Many residents in Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu were dismissive of incumbent ward councillor Marga Haywood.

“If we saw her twice a year, it was a lot,” said Abrahams.

Haywood’s lack of traction may dent the DA’s vote count this year, but the party is unlikely to lose to the ANC, despite the increasing Imizamo Yethu population.

Lelothando Bokuva, 24, became a DA volunteer last year after abandoning the ANC Youth League.

“It was very difficult for me here in the community when I joined the DA. People knew I was involved in the ANC, and going to the DA was a huge thing. People didn’t want to talk to me; I was called a sellout,” said Bokuva.

“The problem with the ANC is the top guys do things on their own, they never get the people involved. If you don’t go to them, you don’t know anything, and the ANC in the Western Cape is split.”

But Lucas Mhaga, a member of the Youth Development Forum, believes ANC candidate Loyiso Skoti will pull in the votes this election.

“The Youth Forum is looking for a change of leadership in Imizamo Yethu. Loyiso Skoti is part of that change,” said Mhaga. “People have high hopes for him.”

Letters

Dear Editor

I do not understand how a person that wasn't born in Hout Bay can write about us and portray us coloured people as in the article! I do not appreciate this article! If you need info, interview relevant people not people that wasn't born in Hout Bay! After all, Mandela Park only came in existence in 1994! You are free to contact me and I will take you to people for our history!

Kind regards

Felicity Africa

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