At a meeting organised by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the organisation detailed the dangers and problems of inadequate public street lighting in various informal settlements, accusing the City of Cape Town for turning a blind eye to this fundamental issue.
Residents of Khayelitsha, Samora Machel, Nyanga, Browns Farm and Marikana informal settlements, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and local organisations, gathered at Isivivana Centre, in Khayelitsha, to attend the meeting.
The gathering was aimed at giving the residents a platform to narrate the daily challenges they face due to the lack of public streets lights in their communities. The SJC said good lighting was one of the most effective means of increasing levels of safety and deterring crime.
The SJC noted that adequate lighting increased the levels of visibility when it was dark, thereby reducing levels of fear.
The residents said the lack of an integrated development plan from both the national and provincial government was one of the major contributing factors to the lack of proper development in township areas.
The SJC said the 2014 commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha mentioned that lack of street lighting was a safety concern and that the fact that the commission had flagged it as an issue, had prompted them to further investigate the matter.
The organisation highlighted that the lack of light also made it difficult for police officers and medical services to quickly respond to calls from the community.
The residents blamed the government for continuing to use apartheid spatial development planning in black communities.
SJC senior researcher, Dalli Weyers, said police officers and EMS workers had confirmed that the lack of adequate lighting was a major deterrent to them doing their work properly.
He said they had written to the City of Cape Town to raise their concerns about this.
But, he said, the response they obtained from the City had been vague.
He said the City claimed that it consulted the residents whether to install either high mast or conventional street lights. But, he said, the reality is that there had been no engagement with the residents.
He said he believed the City had no plans to address the issue of inadequate street lighting in Khayelitsha and other areas and would like the City to acknowledge that high mast lights were associated with the apartheid era and should be replaced with more effective street lighting
“We want them to assign a budget to rectify this injustice. We are happy about the suggestions that people came up with. We want to see the City providing the same services they are rendering in other areas,” he said.
EMS provincial manager, Gilbert Jacobs, said they were unable to enter a number of townships after dark without a police escort, noting that Site C and Harare were among the most dangerous for them.
He said since the beginning of this year they had been robbed between seven and 10 times.
“When we go to Site C, we have to first go to Khayelitsha police station and wait for the police van to escort us while the patient is dying, and sometimes it takes more than an hour to get a van because they are also out patrolling,” he said.
Sub-council 10 manager, Clifford Sitonga said he had submitted a list of about 200 streets in Khayelitsha and surrounding areas that needed proper street lights.
He said the ward allocation of R700 000 to ward councillors a year was too little to maintain their areas.
However, he said, he believed that the ward councillors were not doing enough to better their communities. Mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and sanitation; and energy, Xanthea Limberg, said the City was responsible for the lighting of streets and public open spaces and that street lighting was regulated by SANS 10098 standards.
“The City, in consultation with the community and taking into account the specific community’s preferences, installs either high-mast or conventional street-lighting.
“With regard to Marikana, the lighting network around Sheffield Road, between Govan Mbeki and Stock roads, is continually affected by illegal connections and the area between Stock and New Eisleben roads is highly affected by persistent vandalism and theft,” she said.