Well-lit areas demanded

2019-06-11 06:00
Social Justice Coalition members in Rondebosch.

Social Justice Coalition members in Rondebosch.

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About 300 members of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) protested in the well-lit area of Rondebosch to highlight the inequalities faced by residents in poor areas when it comes to public lighting.

This protest was on the evening of Tuesday 28 May and it was the second protest they held regarding lighting. They say they went to Rondebosch as it is one of the areas that are well lit and they enjoy the benefits of public lighting.

Axolile Notywala, social activist and general secretary for SJC, says the idea was to expose the inequalities and discrimination when it comes to public lighting and resources, especially in disadvantaged communities. He adds that they are not talking about informal settlements but semi-formal residential areas where black people stay that are poorly lit.

“There is discrimination on the basis of race and poverty when it comes to lighting. Affluent and predominantly white areas have proper lights and areas for black people have high mast lights,” he says.

Phindile Maxiti, Mayco member for energy and climate change, says public lighting installation continues across the city and the City of Cape Town remains committed to service delivery across the metro, including the provision of public lighting to areas such as Khayelitsha. “The City has been working hard over the past years to provide appropriate public lighting in this area and across the metro. There are many considerations to be made before public lighting can be installed. The City installs either high mast lighting or conventional street lighting depending on local conditions. The City’s policy is to use one or the other technology, not both,” he says.

But Notywala stated that according to a City of Cape Town policy document, the City shouldn’t be installing high mast lightning. “The policy guards against that as it states that the high mast lights cast a shadow and defeats its purpose. These high masts were installed before 1994 not for safety but for surveillance,” he says, adding that they took their members there so that they can see how unfairly they are treated by the City.

“These are the people that have to walk to the toilets in the dark, they have to walk to their transport in the dark. This is a safety risk and we are demanding the City to install proper lights for our people,” he says.

However, Maxiti says both high mast and conventional street lighting have advantages and disadvantages. Assertions that are made that one is superior to the other in every way are not correct. “The City recognises the potential to create safer spaces through urban design. However, installing conventional street lighting when other design elements, especially clearly defined thoroughfares in settlements not planned makes the availability of space for the installation of formal infrastructure very difficult. Further to this, high levels of vandalism can indeed leave communities without any lighting at all. As such, conventional street lighting, which is generally more susceptible to vandalism, is not always suitable in high-crime areas. This is a fact and a contributing factor to the roll out of public lighting, as above, and is not an excuse. The City thus continues to look at all options,” he says.

Notywala says their engagement with the City have been fruitless and with the budget for the new financial year they were told without any certainty that R6m will be pumped into public lighting.

“There are areas that we know are a priority like Nyanga and Khayelitsha but the City is not telling us how the money will be used and who will benefit first,” he says.

Maxiti says the total number of conventional streetlights in Khayelitsha that are planned for refurbishment during the 2019/20 financial year are 277.

The budget allocated for this purpose amounts to R1.8m. Further lighting investigations and installations shall continue when the planned lighting installations have been completed.

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