Unequal Spaces

The stark division between Hout Bay and Imizamo Yethu. Johnny Miller, Unequal Scenes

Created by photographer and video producer, Johnny Miller, Unequal Scenes is an ongoing photographic project showing inequality from the air, which aims to encourage debate around the socioeconomic divide in South Africa.

Cape Town’s water and sanitation system includes 11 dams, 12 water treatment works, 500 pump stations, 130 reservoirs, 23 wastewater treatment facilities, 20 000 km of pipeline and 3 marine outfalls. Maintenance teams respond to over 400 pipe bursts, water leaks and sewer blockages on an average day. Not everyone has access to water and sanitation at home though. Between 2011 and 2016, access to piped water grew by just under 19%, but there is still a long way to go. Informal settlements are served by 10 000 communal taps and 50 000 toilets, which is vastly inadequate.

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For that reason, water and sanitation struggles have characterised Cape Town in recent years — from the infamous toilets set up without any privacy in Khayelitsha, to prepaid water meters being forced on poor households, struggles over chemical toilets, the absence of sanitation, and ongoing battles over water pollution from inadequate wastewater treatment facilities that have not kept pace with Cape Town’s population increases. The city’s polluted water bodies and surrounding oceans are the symptoms of its painful past and inability of recent administrations to reimagine a city with collaborative water stewardship, service provision and housing developments that dissolve the barriers around which the city has been built.

Pollution in Black River. Photo: Belinda Johnson

Cape Town is two cities in one: one is an affluent global city; the other is a city of poverty, slums, shackdwellers and homeless people, with little to no municipal services. Whilst it boasts some of the most glamorous suburbs in the world, in 2013 there were approximately 193 000 informal households in 204 informal settlements in the City of Cape Town, which has increased with population growth since then.

“The legacy of apartheid, and specifically the architecture of separation, provides a very unique context in which to view this particular form of inequality… Many of these architectural separations – roads, rivers, ‘buffer zones’ of empty land – still exist today in South Africa. But they can be very difficult to see from the ground. So I had the idea to fly above the most glaring, obvious separations in Cape Town with my drone.” Johnny Miller

The population of 4 and a half million people has grown by a million in the last 10 years, and swells each year with thousands of visitors, especially in the dry summer months from November to April. Eating, drinking, producing, cleaning, living, working and playing here, Capetonians collectively use around 750 million litres (ML) of water daily, and generate a tidal wave of sewage and grey water filled with chemicals and other pollution, which needs to be treated and re-absorbed by the environment.

Photo by Masixole Feni. Source: Ground Up

How did Cape Town get to have such an unequal water and sanitation system?

Patterns of settlement, inclusion and violent exclusion around the peninsula were shaped by access to water, prime land and other resources — from the arrival of European settlers in the 1600s to the establishment of apartheid in the 1900s — creating a blueprint for the inequality that persists today. Of all the many threads woven into the fabric of modern Cape Town, water is the most important.

Cape Town is two cities in one: one is an affluent global city; the other is a city of poverty, slums, shackdwellers and homeless people, with little to no municipal services. Whilst it boasts some of the most glamorous suburbs in the world, in 2013 there were approximately 193 000 informal households in 204 informal settlements in the City of Cape Town, which has increased with population growth since then.

The stark division between Hout Bay and Imizamo Yethu. Johnny Miller, Unequal Scenes

Created by photographer and video producer, Johnny Miller, Unequal Scenes is an ongoing photographic project showing inequality from the air, which aims to encourage debate around the socioeconomic divide in South Africa.

“The legacy of apartheid, and specifically the architecture of separation, provides a very unique context in which to view this particular form of inequality… Many of these architectural separations – roads, rivers, ‘buffer zones’ of empty land – still exist today in South Africa. But they can be very difficult to see from the ground. So I had the idea to fly above the most glaring, obvious separations in Cape Town with my drone.” Johnny Miller

The population of 4 and a half million people has grown by a million in the last 10 years, and swells each year with thousands of visitors, especially in the dry summer months from November to April. Eating, drinking, producing, cleaning, living, working and playing here, Capetonians collectively use around 750 million litres (ML) of water daily, and generate a tidal wave of sewage and grey water filled with chemicals and other pollution, which needs to be treated and re-absorbed by the environment.

Cape Town’s water and sanitation system includes 11 dams, 12 water treatment works, 500 pump stations, 130 reservoirs, 23 wastewater treatment facilities, 20 000 km of pipeline and 3 marine outfalls. Maintenance teams respond to over 400 pipe bursts, water leaks and sewer blockages on an average day. Not everyone has access to water and sanitation at home though. Between 2011 and 2016, access to piped water grew by just under 19%, but there is still a long way to go. Informal settlements are served by 10 000 communal taps and 50 000 toilets, which is vastly inadequate.

Read More >

Photo by Masixole Feni. Source: Ground Up

For that reason, water and sanitation struggles have characterised Cape Town in recent years — from the infamous toilets set up without any privacy in Khayelitsha, to prepaid water meters being forced on poor households, struggles over chemical toilets, the absence of sanitation, and ongoing battles over water pollution from inadequate wastewater treatment facilities that have not kept pace with Cape Town’s population increases. The city’s polluted water bodies and surrounding oceans are the symptoms of its painful past and inability of recent administrations to reimagine a city with collaborative water stewardship, service provision and housing developments that dissolve the barriers around which the city has been built.

Pollution in Black River. Photo: Belinda Johnson

How did Cape Town get to have such an unequal water and sanitation system?

Patterns of settlement, inclusion and violent exclusion around the peninsula were shaped by access to water, prime land and other resources — from the arrival of European settlers in the 1600s to the establishment of apartheid in the 1900s — creating a blueprint for the inequality that persists today. Of all the many threads woven into the fabric of modern Cape Town, water is the most important.

Mountain of the Sea

“The story of Table Mountain’s Water is the story of power, of forgotten voices, of people displaced, of slavery and of slavery overturned. It is the story of Water harnessed as well as wasted. As we follow this Water, back and forth in time, we uncover many interwoven stories, alternating between moments of technological ingenuity, stupidity, enlightenment, and barbarism. Throughout, there are the profound links between the past, the present and the future.

Journeying through the ‘lost spaces’ associated with Cape Town’s waterways, a global story of Water, land and humankind unfolds. When one uncovers the history of a ‘place’, it is through means of title deeds — ownership and power, however, when one uncovers the history of a ‘place’, through its Water — one uncovers the popular history of that place. As one follows the path of these waters from mountain to ocean, the fact that Water follows the path of least resistance and has no boundaries, is revealed.”
Caron von Zeil, Reclaim Camissa

Map of the annual Khoi transhumance patterns in and around the Cape Peninsula. Image source: Andrew Smith, “The Making of a City”, by Worden, et al.

In the indigenous Khoe language, //Hui !Gaeb means “where the clouds gather” and is the name for the place that become Cape Town, where the clouds become waters that flow and filter down and through the soil and rocks of Hoerikwaggo, her iconic flat-topped “mountain of the sea.”

The Khoe’s pattern of spending summers on the Cape Peninsula, and trekking with their cattle up the West Coast for winter went on for at least 1500 years, before the oceans brought passing ships also drawn by the sweet waters of Table Mountain’s bountiful springs, and what would be for them, cataclysmic change.

“The fresh water streams, or sweet drinking waters, were known to the Khoena as ‘Camissa’ – //ammi i ssa. The Portuguese first name for the Camissa in Table Bay was ‘Rio Doce’ – sweet water, and then later ‘Agua de Saldanha’ . The Dutch called it the Platteklipstroom and the Soetwater-rivier. The place around the mouth of the main Camissa river flowing from Hoerikwaggo to the sea, was the ideal place for the setting up of camp by the Goringhaicona clan.”
Patric Tariq Mellet, The Camissa People.

KhoeKhoe Bartering with the Dutch. Source: NLSA

Oceans Apart

In his blog site Camissa People and recently published book, historian Patric Tariq Mellet challenges what he calls “The Lie of 1652” that Cape Town was founded by Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Before the Dutch began to settle here, European ships had been passing around the Cape of Good Hope, or Cape of Storms, since the Portuguese in 1488, so there had already been two centuries of interaction by the indigenous Khoe people with foreign visitors dropping anchor in Table Bay.

This led to some of the Khoe establishing the first trading settlement on the banks of the main Camissa River on the shore of Table Bay, an act that constituted the foundation of the City of Cape Town. It was from Camissa that foreign ships were supplied with vital fresh water by the Goringhaicona, or ‘children of the Goringhaiqua’. The Dutch referred to the Goringhaicona as the ‘Watermans’ because of their association with the freshwater Camissa River and the seashore. They initially were the middle men between the Khoe livestock herders and the Dutch, but the VOC settlement led by Jan van Riebeeck would see this situation destroyed and bring a new era of exclusion and oppression.

“The erection of boundaries as a way of excluding the Khoikhoi laid down the foundation and defined what would later become a segregated city.”
Cape Town the Segregated City

Source: How to Recreate the City of Cape Town, UCT News, 2017

An early proposal by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to separate settlers from the Khoe was to dig a trench between the Salt and Liesbeeck Rivers up to False Bay. Instead, Jan van Riebeeck implemented a different plan, and had a hedge of bitter almond trees and thorny bushes planted as boundaries along settler farms, which included his own in Wynberg. The remains of the hedge are still visible today in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town — and the approximate line of the old hedge was revived by the Group Areas Act during apartheid, so that even though the trees are long gone, their effects still play out in Cape Town’s race geography.

In his blog site Camissa People and recently published book, historian Patric Tariq Mellet challenges what he calls “The Lie of 1652” that Cape Town was founded by Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Before the Dutch began to settle here, European ships had been passing around the Cape of Good Hope, or Cape of Storms, since the Portuguese in 1488, so there had already been two centuries of interaction by the indigenous Khoe people with foreign visitors dropping anchor in Table Bay.

This led to some of the Khoe establishing the first trading settlement on the banks of the main Camissa River on the shore of Table Bay, an act that constituted the foundation of the City of Cape Town. It was from Camissa that foreign ships were supplied with vital fresh water by the Goringhaicona, or ‘children of the Goringhaiqua’. The Dutch referred to the Goringhaicona as the ‘Watermans’ because of their association with the freshwater Camissa River and the seashore. They initially were the middle men between the Khoe livestock herders and the Dutch, but the VOC settlement led by Jan van Riebeeck would see this situation destroyed and bring a new era of exclusion and oppression.

Source: How to Recreate the City of Cape Town, UCT News, 2017

“The erection of boundaries as a way of excluding the Khoikhoi laid down the foundation and defined what would later become a segregated city.”
Cape Town the Segregated City

An early proposal by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to separate settlers from the Khoe was to dig a trench between the Salt and Liesbeeck Rivers up to False Bay. Instead, Jan van Riebeeck implemented a different plan, and had a hedge of bitter almond trees and thorny bushes planted as boundaries along settler farms, which included his own in Wynberg. The remains of the hedge are still visible today in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town — and the approximate line of the old hedge was revived by the Group Areas Act during apartheid, so that even though the trees are long gone, their effects still play out in Cape Town’s race geography.

In his blog site Camissa People and recently published book, historian Patric Tariq Mellet challenges what he calls “The Lie of 1652” that Cape Town was founded by Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Before the Dutch began to settle here, European ships had been passing around the Cape of Good Hope, or Cape of Storms, since the Portuguese in 1488, so there had already been two centuries of interaction by the indigenous Khoe people with foreign visitors dropping anchor in Table Bay.

This led to some of the Khoe establishing the first trading settlement on the banks of the main Camissa River on the shore of Table Bay, an act that constituted the foundation of the City of Cape Town. It was from Camissa that foreign ships were supplied with vital fresh water by the Goringhaicona, or ‘children of the Goringhaiqua’. The Dutch referred to the Goringhaicona as the ‘Watermans’ because of their association with the freshwater Camissa River and the seashore. They initially were the middle men between the Khoe livestock herders and the Dutch, but the VOC settlement led by Jan van Riebeeck would see this situation destroyed and bring a new era of exclusion and oppression.

“The erection of boundaries as a way of excluding the Khoikhoi laid down the foundation and defined what would later become a segregated city.”
Cape Town the Segregated City

An early proposal by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to separate settlers from the Khoe was to dig a trench between the Salt and Liesbeeck Rivers up to False Bay. Instead, Jan van Riebeeck implemented a different plan, and had a hedge of bitter almond trees and thorny bushes planted as boundaries along settler farms, which included his own in Wynberg. The remains of the hedge are still visible today in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town — and the approximate line of the old hedge was revived by the Group Areas Act during apartheid, so that even though the trees are long gone, their effects still play out in Cape Town’s race geography.

Source: How to Recreate the City of Cape Town, UCT News, 2017

Trading People

Over a period of one hundred and eighty three years 78 000 enslaved people were sold in Cape Town, where they and their offspring lived their lives as slave workers who built the city and neighbouring small towns and farms under Dutch and later British rule. These people were brought across the oceans from other parts of Africa, from Madagascar, India, Indonesia and China.

Over time the small port town built around the Camissa settlement became known as Cabo de Goede Hoop, which became the City of Cape Town. The Dutch VOC agents initially lived amongst the Khoe while they built a fort at their existing trade post, adjacent to the river. They later replaced the fort with a castle and diverted the Camissa into a moat around the castle.

Slave Water carriers on Greenmarket Square. Image: Cape Archives M166: Burgherswachtplein (1764). Source: Reclaim Camissa

Segregation increasingly became an important feature of Cape Town society between 1875 and 1902, as the now British government continued to pass legislation that pushed African, “Coloured” and Indian people out of the city. The city’s population reflects historical waves — San and Khoekhoe, Dutch, English and other European settlers, African and Asian enslaved people and indentured workers, isiXhosa migrating or being forced into labour from the Eastern Cape, Jewish people fleeing persecution initially looked down upon by other “whites”.

Heerengracht 1855. Source: Wiki Commons

Over the years layer upon layer covered the Camissa River and it became forgotten, though it still flows under the city. Like the river basin, the identity of the Camissa people was layered over in time, as the history and heritage of the indigenous Khoena and the slaves at the Cape was also driven underground. The term ‘Cape Coloured People’ came into official use under British rule in the mid 1800s and the Camissa People were written out of the historical script.

Serving a Segregated City

Demolition of District Six. Two mosques in background. E Walker Collection, District 6 Museum

Source: Mapping Diversity, Stats SA

Group Areas in Cape Town. Source: Owen Cranshaw

The Group Areas Act of 1950 passed by the newly elected National Party gave the government power to say where people allocated to each race group could live and own property. Thousands of black and brown people were violently moved from many areas around the city into areas like Langa, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha, and even as far as Atlantis, north of the city along the West coast.

In 1991 the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act were repealed; in April 1994 the first democratic elections were held in South Africa and apartheid was dismantled. Since then, many are reclaiming their heritage and bringing to the surface the stories of the Camissa People and the heritage of the KhoeKhoe and the enslaved is being proudly celebrated. At the same time, the forgotten history of Table Mountain’s springs and underground water flows has been unearthed by researchers and the value of this water reassessed.

Today, while some progress has been made, the structures and scars of colonisation and apartheid spatial planning, compounded by rapid urbanisation and post-democracy misrule and corruption, create huge challenges for the creation of an equitable and ecologically sound urban water system that serves all the residents of Cape Town.

Demolition of District Six. Two mosques in background. E Walker Collection, District 6 Museum

The Group Areas Act of 1950 passed by the newly elected National Party gave the government power to say where people allocated to each race group could live and own property. Thousands of black and brown people were violently moved from many areas around the city into areas like Langa, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha, and even as far as Atlantis, north of the city along the West coast.

Group Areas in Cape Town. Source: Owen Cranshaw

In 1991 the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act were repealed; in April 1994 the first democratic elections were held in South Africa and apartheid was dismantled. Since then, many are reclaiming their heritage and bringing to the surface the stories of the Camissa People and the heritage of the KhoeKhoe and the enslaved is being proudly celebrated. At the same time, the forgotten history of Table Mountain’s springs and underground water flows has been unearthed by researchers and the value of this water reassessed.

Today, while some progress has been made, the structures and scars of colonisation and apartheid spatial planning, compounded by rapid urbanisation and post-democracy misrule and corruption, create huge challenges for the creation of an equitable and ecologically sound urban water system that serves all the residents of Cape Town.

Source: Mapping Diversity, Stats SA

Demolition of District Six. Two mosques in background. E Walker Collection, District 6 Museum

The Group Areas Act of 1950 passed by the newly elected National Party gave the government power to say where people allocated to each race group could live and own property. Thousands of black and brown people were violently moved from many areas around the city into areas like Langa, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha, and even as far as Atlantis, north of the city along the West coast.

Group Areas in Cape Town. Source: Owen Cranshaw

In 1991 the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act were repealed; in April 1994 the first democratic elections were held in South Africa and apartheid was dismantled. Since then, many are reclaiming their heritage and bringing to the surface the stories of the Camissa People and the heritage of the KhoeKhoe and the enslaved is being proudly celebrated. At the same time, the forgotten history of Table Mountain’s springs and underground water flows has been unearthed by researchers and the value of this water reassessed.

Today, while some progress has been made, the structures and scars of colonisation and apartheid spatial planning, compounded by rapid urbanisation and post-democracy misrule and corruption, create huge challenges for the creation of an equitable and ecologically sound urban water system that serves all the residents of Cape Town.

Source: Mapping Diversity, Stats SA