The history of Imizamo Yethu and the Dontse Yahke area

Timeline of Imizamo Yethu Planning and Development


1990. The ANC participated in the assisted migration of significant numbers of persons from the Transkei and Ciskei, who settled along the Hout Bay River and in the dunes behind the Hout Bay beach. 

1991. The Provincial Government determined, after securing the agreement of the Hout Bay Ratepayers’ Association, that:

a.    Those people squatting amongst the dunes should be consolidated with other small squatter communities from other parts of the Hout Bay valley and moved to the land (34 ha in extent) around the forestry station between Hughenden and Penzance Estates. 

b.    Only 450 numbered shacks were to be allowed on 18 ha. The remaining 16ha were reserved for non-residential community amenities. 

c.    Any further settlement on the allocated land would be regulated and controlled. 

d.    50 metre wide “no development” interfacing zones would be maintained between the informal settlement and the neighbouring established suburbs of Hughenden and Penzance.

e.    The new settlement area was to be administered by the local authority in accordance with the provisions of the Western Cape Provincial Land Use Planning Ordinance (LUPO).

1991 - 1997. Local and provincial government did nothing to ensure that the terms of the move were complied with and the informal settlement expanded year by year without any regulation or control.  Nothing effective was done to fulfil the promise to the community originally settled on the area that came to be known as Imizamo Yethu (IY) that they would be given individual title to erven to be laid out in the area.

September 1997. City of Cape Town was given control of the 34 ha Imizamo Yethu property.  410 plots were allocated for identified beneficiaries but by this time there were 1882 structures in IY.

September 1997 to September 2003. 4 City staff members patrolled IY in an attempt to keep further illegal structures from being erected but with little success.

Between 1997 & 2002 the Irish charity organisation, the Niall Mellon Foundation, built brick houses on 298 of the 410 plots allocated for original beneficiaries, but never given to them.

2002-06. Some services, eg. taps and ‘bucket system’ toilets, were provided and occasionally maintained.

July 2002. The City obtained a declaratory court order to prevent unlawful occupations on the 34 ha of land in IY.

November 2002.  The City Exco under the ANC recommended that the full council ratify urgent steps to relocate newcomers in Imizamo Yethu to the most immediately available housing sites in the City, which at the time were in Mitchells Plain and Blue Downs.

a.    This step was motivated by the dangers posed by overcrowding and the need to plan and develop the settlement formally. 

b.    The City proceeded to get a court order to begin moving newcomers out.

June 2003. City Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo (ANC) declared a one month moratorium on shack demolitions in Hout Bay.  The contractors hired to remove shacks were stopped from doing so.

September 2003. The four anti-invasion patrols in IY were withdrawn.  Squatters then began to invade the 16ha Forestry Station set aside for amenities in the original proclamation for Imizamo Yethu. The City and Provincial authorities did nothing to evict them.

October 2003. Sinethemba Civic Association and the Ratepayers’ Association of Hout Bay obtained a court interdict against any use of the Forestry Station land for other than the uses originally agreed.

February 2004.  Shack fire broke out in IY, which left approximately 5 000 people homeless.  

-       City began a planning process for the development of the burned area. In the 18ha township section of IY 251 erven were serviced and access roads for some of these erven put in.

-       The Niall Mellon Foundation again intervened and built 100 brick houses on serviced erven. 

-       A housing plan was also formulated for the interdicted 16 hectares.

-     Displaced persons built shacks above and outside the proclaimed Township in what has come to be known as Dontse Yakhe (DY).

 At first people who moved into DY built on an erf belonging to the City, Erf 2848, zoned: Local Authority, and on which the Hout Bay water reservoir is located. 

 The shacks were erected on the water main, which the relevant department pointed out posed a severe risk to life & limb and a very serious water supply problem for the valley if this piping were ruptured. The City made no attempt to stop this land invasion.

  When the municipal erf was filled with shacks new squatters moved over the boundary into the Table Mountain National Park. The park authorities made no attempt to stop them.

April 2004. The City tried to gain control of the 16 ha Forestry Station area for housing development. Mayor Mfeketo wrote to the National Minister of Housing requesting an amendment of the legislation governing IY, from the provincial LUPO to the national Less Formal Township Establishment Act (LEFTEA), to permit the removal of the 18 hectare limit on residential development in Imizamo Yethu.

September 2004.  National and Provincial governments agreed that this would be done at provincial level but in October 2004 Province referred the matter to the National Government for action.

February 2005.  The National Director General of Housing advised the Head of the Provincial Department of Housing that national government did not agree to an amendment of the legislation governing IY and referred the matter back to Province. Eventually the change to LEFTEA was carried out but the Court Interdict remained in place for the Forestry Station land.

2005.  The City drew up an inventory of all vacant state and privately owned land in the vicinity of IY. A number of public sites were identified in and outside Hout Bay but all were found to be unsuitable. Private land in the immediate area was also deemed unsuitable because it was too expensive to purchase for low cost housing.

Nothing further was done about the overcrowding until the DA-led multiparty government took office in 2006.

Meanwhile new occupants continued to pour into the area, raising the total number of residents and shack dwellers to an estimated 40 000 by 2015. 

Health hazards proliferated due to run-off of raw sewage from Imizamo Yethu and Dontse Yakhe, resulting in dangerously high levels of pollution of groundwater in the surrounding area and of the Hout Bay River. Warning signs had to be erected around the lagoon at the river estuary on Hout Bay beach.

2006. The City appointed a planning consultant for the completion of the Imizamo Yethu Spatial Plan, with the stated aim of developing a human settlement plan which would ensure that IY became a healthy and sustainable community.

late 2006. The Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, at Mayor Zille’s request, undertook an extensive public participation process to determine the local communities’ views on how Imizamo Yethu should be developed.  After 10 months’ deliberations involving all Hout Bay civic groupings and COSATU, a consensus agreement on the way forward for IY was reached in mid-2007 and a set of IJR Principles for the development of the area was presented to the City.  The IJR Principles included the necessity for a substantial number of persons to be relocated elsewhere.

mid-2008. A set of 4 Options for the development of the 16 ha site was presented to the Hout Bay communities for consideration.  Extensive well-researched and informed comment resulted.

early 2009. A 5th Option was proposed by the City - supposedly based on the public’s and expert specialists’ responses to Options 1 to 4.  Unfortunately this 5th option took virtually no notice of the comments made by the local communities nor of the firmly expressed opinions of the City’s own expert specialist consultants.

Community organisations prepared and submitted proposed improvements on Option 5, which became known as Option 6.  These alternatives were dismissed by the official planners without well-considered reasons.

14th October 2009. Official proposals, being largely an unaltered Option 5, were considered by the Council’s Spatial Planning, Environment and L and Use Management committee – a grouping of councillors beholden to the mayor for their positions and with little relevant expertise amongst them.  The Ward Councillor and Community objectors were refused permission to speak at this meeting.

18th November 2009. Province issues its Environmental Authorisation and Record of Decision regarding the proposed mixed use and residential development with associated infrastructure on a Portion of Erf 2848, Erf 7296, Erf 7309 and the Remainder of Erf 6355, Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay: (D:EA&DP Case Number E12/2/3/1-A5/241-0254/07).

26th November 2009: the Hout Bay & Llandudno Heritage Trust lodges an appeal against Province’s environmental authorisation on the following grounds:

The proposed development of Imizamu Yethu:

·               is in contravention of the Record of Decision of Heritage Western Cape Ref. HM/HOUT BAY/ERF 7309 AND 7296, dated 27-02-2009,

·               is in contravention of the recommendations made by the specialist consultants appointed by the Council,

·               has not taken into account any of the numerous objections made by residents and civic organisations within Hout Bay,

·                     has had a highly questionable “public participation” process,

·                     encourages the illegal entry of rainwater into the valley’s sewerage system.  

26th November 2009. Option 5 as recommended by the city’s SPELUM committee was presented to the full City Council and recommended for submission to Province for final approval. However Ward 74 Councillor Marga Haywood stated in Council that if the recommendation was approved, Hout Bay community organisations would certainly instigate court action. The Speaker therefore ruled that as there was a risk of court action, procedurally the matter had to be referred back to SPELUM.

14th January 2010. SPELUM reviewed the City’s application but as the chairman of the Good Hope Sub-Council 16 into which Ward 74 falls, Demetri Amira, had persuaded the Speaker to allow the Sub-Council to consider the matter and interview community organisations on 18 January, SPELUM deferred making a recommendation.

18th January 2010. Good Hope Sub-Council interviewed 6 objectors and recommended major changes to the proposed plans, along the lines of the Hout Bay Communities’ Option 6A.  The Community organisations emphasised that all in Hout Bay wish to see Imizamo Yethu developed as a properly planned suburb of Hout Bay with all the facilities and amenities necessary for a rounded lifestyle, catering for a range of income groups in its housing component. 

21st January 2010. SPELUM reconsidered its decision in the light of the Sub-Council’s recommendations and recommended to the full Council for submission to Province, revised plans mainly but not fully along the lines advocated in the community’s Option 6A.

27th January 2010. The full City Council resolved that it be recommended to the Competent Authority (Province) that its plans for IY be approved virtually unchanged from the documents submitted to the Council meeting on 26th November 2009; that is Option 5 and not Option 6A as recommended by SPELUM on 21st January; with an apparent concession regarding the boundary road but which on close reading was merely an obfuscation of the planners’ original scheme.  Also, the plans recommended to Province took no account whatsoever of the conditions precedent to any development required by the Province’s environmental authorisation of 18 November 2009. Finally, the officials managed to slip into the document the re-development of the Victoria Road/Victoria Avenue intersection which had absolutely nothing to do with IY.

5th May 2010. Province approves everything recommended to it by the City on 27th January 2010.

26th May 2010. The Hout Bay & Llandudno Environmental Conservation Group (ECG), which comprised then & still comprises the Residents’ Association of Hout Bay (now known as the Hout Bay Residents’ & Ratepayers’ Association), SANCO (Hout Bay branch), Sinethemba – the organisation representing the original families relocated to the government forestry station area in 1999, the Hout Bay & Llandudno Heritage Trust, the Llandudno Civic Association and the Cape Wetlands Trust, writes to the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning at Province, copied to the Premier and the City Manager, pointing out the various ways in which his authorisation for the development of the forestry station area violated his own environmental authorisation conditions of 18 November 2009.

6th July 2010.  The relevant minister, Minister Bredell, replies to the ECG saying virtually nothing and confirming that he was not going to change his 5th May authorisation.

20th July 2010. The ECG writes to Minister Bredell, copied to the Premier and the City Manager, pointing out that his actions in approving the City’s plans for the development of IY are illegal because, amongst other reasons, the plans predated the environmental authorization and took no account of the requirements of that environmental authorization, which should have informed the drawing up of such plans.

23rd July 2010. A letter is received from the District Manager: Southern District, Planning & Building Development Management, City of Cape Town, saying “Your letter of 26 May 2010 to the City Manager refers. The content of your letter has been noted. The issues raised do relate, however, to the decision made by the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning on 5 May 2010. The City believes that the Minister is more appropriately positioned to respond and I am informed that such response dated 6 July 2010 has already been sent to you. The City is proceeding with the implementation of the development of Imizamu Yethu in accordance with the approvals granted and in compliance with the conditions imposed.”

November 2010. The ECG launches an action against the Province, with the City as the 2nd Respondent, for illegally approving a development plan for Sites 1, 2 & 3, IY (Option 5) which does not accord with the requirements of the Province’s EIA authorisation for the development: principally the retention of the trees on Site 2 (Erf 7309 Hout Bay), and agreeing to the City being both judge & jury in respect of a Transport Impact Assessment (TIA) required to decide whether the planned service road on Site 2 be moved closer to the centre of IY.  Both the Province & City give notice of intention to defend the action.

24 October 2011. The City makes application to the High Court to evict all those occupants who reside within 15 metres of the water mains running through the area known as Dontse Yakhe (Remainder Erf 2848, Hout Bay; zoned Local Authority).  The Court ordered that the parties meaningfully engage about whether alternative accommodation can reasonably be made available to the affected persons.  The Court further ordered that this engagement be between the City and 5 elected representatives from each of the 3 affected areas identified along the pipe run.

10 November 2011.  ECG invited to a meeting with Aldermen Belinda Walker and Neilsen to discuss halting of court action.  Clifford Nogwavu, SANCO (Hout Bay) chairman, spoke particularly eloquently about the IY community’s objection to the planned service road as it was at the very bottom of the steep IY hill and would result in the destruction of the trees, which IY residents wish to retain. The residents want a road that runs mainly along the route of the N R Mandela Drive.  The ECG submitted a plan of this proposal.  BW seemed impressed by Mr Nogwavu’s contribution but the meeting was inconclusive.  Neilsen in particular seemed anti the ECG.

22 & 23 November 2011.  Court action against the Province & the City regarding the planned development of Sites 1, 2 & 3, IY.  Daniel Dlodlo J presided.  Adv. David Borgstrom represented the ECG.  Adv Paul Farlam represented the Province.  SC Geoff Budlender represented the City.  Judgement was reserved.

29 November 2011. The City held their first meeting with the 15 elected DY representatives about moving the persons living in shacks on the water mains. Subsequent meetings were held on 07 December 2011 and on 02 March 2012, at each of which there was discussion regarding identification of the persons affected. It was finally agreed that a survey would be conducted on 19 March 2012 by officials and the elected representatives of all occupants in the 30 metre wide buffer strip along the water mains route.  The Ward 74 councillor, Marga Haywood, who is a member of the Council's Human Settlements portfolio committee, was excluded from these deliberations.

At this point in the negotiations the elected representatives decided not to cooperate further with the City’s Directorate of Human Settlements officials.  The City through its legal department engaged with the community’s legal advisors for the next three months in an effort to reach an accommodation.  However, as the community remained obdurate the City started the survey by itself in late July 2012.

22 March 2012.  Dlodlo J finds in favour of the City in the case concerning the planned development of Sites 1, 2 & 3, IY.  He accepted all Adv. Budlender’s arguments.

April 2012.  Informed by the City that external consultants appointed following the 10/11/11 meeting with Belinda Walker have recommended that the service road be re-aligned to follow the route advocated by the ECG. 

May 2012. Sub-Council 16 approves service road realignment.

June 2012. SPELUM approves service road realignment.

July 2012.  The City Council resolves that the IY development plan be amended to re-align the service road and to forward this amendment to Province for ratification.

31 October 2012. Tree management Plan and Heritage Study for Imizamo Yethu presented to I&APs.

Since then the wider Hout Bay community has not been kept informed of what the City is doing to develop IY as normal suburb, with the usual amenities of proper streets, sewerage, water and lighting and the removal of excess squatters, including those living in the highly illegal settlement known as DY, to another location, all as agreed in the IJR Principles hammered out in 2006.

The only two positive steps that appear to have been taken are the building of an excellent primary school, the Disa Primary, on the Forestry Station site, paid for by the Soujerman family which owns the Hout Bay Manor hotel, and the purchase of the YMCA land on the east of IY by the Province, on which the Silikamva High school is being progressively developed.

We do know that the City proposed that the development of the Forestry Station site should include 1,100 dwellings, which number could only be provided on the 16ha available by building 3 storey community rental units; and that plans to proceed on this basis reached an advanced stage.  However, when they learnt of this plan the IY community flatly refused to countenance such a scheme, demanding that stand alone houses be provided.  The present state of play in this housing dilemma is not known by the Hout Bay Residents’ & Ratepayers’ Association. Requests for information on the subject have been met by silence.

The acute problems represented by DY remain, amongst which two of the most serious are: 

·         the unbearable situation in which the residents of the neighbouring Hughenden Estate find themselves, due entirely to the failure of the City in the first place to prevent the invasion of Remainder Erf 2848, zoned Local Authority, and then to ensure the integrity of the "emergency gate" from Hughenden which was supposed to provide access to the vital water reservoir on that erf which supplies the whole valley.

·         The location of shacks on the water main running from the reservoir, despite the Court proceedings in October 2011.


In this regard the following information was provided on 24 April 2015 by Dr. Ivan Bromfield, Acting Executive Director: Human Settlements of the City: 

“Human Settlements have a long term plan for decanting people from Dontse Yakhe but have to first prepare the land identified (project initiated) which will be able to accommodate some of the Dontse Yakhe residents but still need to identify additional land for the remainder. Once this is in place all concerned will need to be consulted before the move takes place. Once the people are moved off Dontse Yakhe the community will need to play a role in ensuring the area is not repopulated.

In the interim it has been agreed that Human Settlements would reconvene a local area management team consisting of Human Settlements, Environmental Health, Law Enforcement. Stormwater, Solid Waste etc to deal with day to day management of the situation. The Director Urbanisation will convene the initial meeting.”