WESBANK, KUISRIVER, CAPE PENINSULA - ANOTHER COMMUNITY IN NEED
A COMMUNITY PROFILE
" As a researcher, Wesbank leaves me with a number of sensory impressions.
Firstly it is overcrowded. At all times which we visited there were a large number of people, not only around houses, but on the streets. Most of the houses which we saw had backyard dwellings and neighbours were quite literally on top of each other. There is a sense of always being surrounded by people.
Driving past the schools, the small fields seemed packed with learners and in the afternoon hundreds of children darted about playing in front of their homes and on the smaller streets.
It also seems to be a place “abuzz” with gossip or in the local lingo “skinner”. This is as invariably a result of the close proximity in which people live and the fact that since, many are unemployed, they spend a significant amount of time together doing chores during the day. I get a sense that this proximity may have done a lot to disarm any racial tensions between the local black and coloured residents because in the words of one informant “we all have the same problems...black or coloured.”
Wesbank also strikes me as a place in the middle. There have been significant development interventions (schools, clinics, community centre) but much still needs to be done, especially with regards to providing opportunities and activities for the youth.
Development has been focused on providing physical resources but this alone will not solve the social “ills” of the area. Careful management and strategic choices in the best interests of the community need to be made. Development trajectories cannot solely focus on the provision of “products” but need to put the structures in place to incorporate the community, which seems fragmented and disinterested. Furthermore, Wesbank strikes me as slightly isolated from other parts of the city. More needs to be done to incorporate it into the social, political and economic flows of the city, so it becomes a part of Cape Town, not a village standing on its own."
A MAP VIEW OF WESBANK, KUILSRIVER
An aerial view of Wesbank, Kuilsriver
A TYPICAL SEMI-DETACHED HOUSE IN WESBANK. KUILSRIVER
Note the sterile, harsh environment, reminding us of a rural setting, nothing resembling Cape Town. The surroundings have very little mental stimulation for young children.
The town is plagued by gangsterism and illegal drugs.
What role will Fuller Center for Housing, Western Cape, play in Wesbank, Kuilsriver?
WHAT THE COMMUNITY LEADERS SAID:
All the community leaders whom we spoke to had been staying in Wesbank for 9-10 years. That is, they moved into their houses when the development first started. They spoke about a number of significant changes to housing conditions in the area. Firstly all residents told us that the houses were too small for their families.
Over the years this led to the construction of backyard dwellings across the community in order to house excess family members. All those interviewed told us that these dwellings were spread across the community and there were no clusters of informal housing. Both black and coloured people used this method to house family members who simply could not fit into the main house. As one can imagine the area is hence very overcrowded.
This in turn, puts pressure on services such as water, drainage and electricity. In addition when people had first arrived, there had just been houses and no other facilities. People hence had to travel in order to access hospitals, work or schools. Although some of this secondary infrastructure has been provided (schools, clinics, community centre) over the last decade, Wesbank still has the feel of a community isolated from many of the economic benefits of the city.
Another problem was that many people rented out or sold their houses. Interviewees told us that the owners would sell and then move into their own backyards, since they were so desperate for money. Tenants also had few rights and could be exploited by landlords.
Although the first houses had been a success since many people had come from squatter camps and had never had a formal house, there had been no further housing interventions in Wesbank.
Overcrowding, due to backyarders, was a huge issue and the primary challenge in terms of housing in the area. Housing issues were not political in Wesbank, since people had received houses from the government."
AN OBVIOUS AREA OF NEED THAT COULD BE ADDRESSED BY FULLER CENTER FOR HOUSING, WOULD BE TO INCREASE THE SIZE OF THE HOUSES AND TO ADDRESS THE HOUSING NEEDS OF THE BACK YARD DWELLERS.