Picturing Cape Town’s townships: sandy neighbourhoods, neglected space and thriving enterprise hotspots
In this picture blog, the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy, and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)‘s Ivan Turok explores house building, community development and enterprise expansion in some of Cape Town’s townships. This piece was originally posted on the SHLC website.
Originally an inhospitable location offering cheap land on the outskirts of Cape Town, Delft township is gradually morphing into something more than a desolate dormitory settlement. Diverse forms of backyard and state-led housing are mushrooming, although the public infrastructure was not designed to cope with the surging population. Pavements and underground services are being built over to accommodate new structures, and public spaces are often neglected, which creates an eyesore and devalues the new investment.
The burgeoning population means that informal retail activity and consumer services are springing up along some of the main access roads in Delft.
No refrigeration is available for informal street traders, but that doesn’t prevent a healthy trade in chickens for Sunday lunch.
Not far away in Philippi, a more concerted effort has been made to create a business hive and support services for micro enterprises. Old shipping containers are good building materials because they are very secure. However, they lack ventilation and get very hot in the summer.
Further away in Mfuleni business support is skimpy and jobs are scarce, but these creative young men are making decorative tiles in a thriving informal enterprise.
Just down the road in premises provided by the municipality, an experienced seamstress is making and repairing garments for local customers.
The quality of housing in Mfuleni is very poor, with most people living in makeshift shacks made of corrugated zinc sheets attached to wooden frames.
The housing pressures in Cape Town are so great that people have resorted to invading undeveloped private and public land because there is not enough space in existing informal settlements and backyard dwellings. These spontaneous land grabs are happening far from transport connections and in areas completely lacking in public services. It is a highly unsatisfactory way of building a city, but people are desperate and the authorities are generally powerless to prevent such invasions.
This area of Khayelitsha is being built on sand and offers a pretty inhospitable, windswept environment. Lacking all amenities like schools, clinics and shops required for decent living, it is not an conducive place to build a home.
With no formal streets and neighbourhood boundaries, fences are an important way to stake out your own plot in Khayelitsha and prevent other people from intruding on your precious site.
A neighbourhood centre has been built by the municipality about a mile away in the middle of another informal settlement in Khayelitsha. It provides some community facilities in what would otherwise be a very barren landscape. These include a crèche, sports facilities, a market garden and residents can also attend occasional basic training courses. But it is not very well used and people’s needs are much more basic. They first and foremost need access to water, sanitation, electricity and refuse disposal.
A market garden has been created at the Centre to teach local residents how to grow their own vegetables. But the sandy soil is not very conducive to growing food and slugs are a problem for growing all leafy vegetables.
These images will be showcased as part of the forthcoming exhibition ‘Picture This – Living in the World’s Largest Cities’ at the Milk Café, a social enterprise in the Southside of Glasgow. All pictures and captions by Professor Ivan Turok, Human Sciences Research Council. The SHLC is funded by the U.K. government Global Challenges Research Fund via UKRI and ESRC.