Sonwabe: past, present, future

Ward 81 councillor Danny Christian; Igshaan Carstens, Founder of Strandfontein Agricultural, Aquamarine and Boating Association; and Valerie Arendse rights holder for trek fishing on the False Bay Coastline

Last week’s Plainsman lead story – read it here.

The Plainsman has documented our journey quite well starting on June 17 2009 with a story by Simonéh de Bruin, under the headline “Slipway for ’Plain on cards”.

The coastline is open to everyone but not for everyone to be developed.

What is happening around the world following the murder of George Floyd, can be seen as racial spatial patterns and that black coastal communities residing on the False Bay coastline are being targeted.

In the words of Nelson Mandela – “We are living on the coast that is so well-endowed, yet we are a people dying of hunger and starvation”.

Sonwabe means “lekker plek”.

With the first application for management rights for Sonwabe on March 18, 2003, it was well-maintained by the City.

The demolished buildings were well-maintained and the entire area was completely tarred. Many tourists and fishermen congregated at Sonwabe.

The ablution block served its purpose.

Not anymore.

Very interesting is the fact that Sonwabe is used by many motorists when traffic jams occur on Baden Powell Drive.

Another interesting point is that Sonwabe is also a popular place for film shooting.

Not so long ago, the ablution facilities were upgraded.

The business proposal prepared by Alan Chandler and Associates for Sonwabe dated March 16 2003 carried a value of R4.5 million.

This business proposal was submitted to the City on March 18 2003.

On April 9 2003, the City’s directorate for community services recognised Sonwabe as a viable project and made an allowance in its budget for R2.5 million to support the required R4.5 million.

The Organisation Advance South Africa Fair was in a position to provide the additional funding. From Sub-council 18 (in Ottery), the project received overwhelming support.

On July 27 2004, the application for management rights for Sonwabe was referred to the City’s Coastal Zone Technical Co-ordinating Committee for consideration and comment.

An apparent moratorium was placed on any coastal development and no further correspondence was received from the City.

A vigorous search for a boat launching facility for boat operators and aqua-sport was pursued for black coastal communities residing on the False Bay coastline.

On June 12 2009, Leptieshaam Bekko from the provincial government set up a meeting with the community, officials from the municipality and provincial government.

Records show that Gregg Oelofse was also invited to the meetings.

Important to note is the fact that Mr Oelofse explained to the meeting that neither Mnandi with its broken slipway nor Strandfontein with its unfriendly slipway could be used for off-road vehicles which would interfere with the Blue Flag status of both sites.

Now Plettenberg Bay carries Blue Flag status with full boating operating rights.

Several meetings with various stakeholders ensued with
Mr Oelofse.

On May 20 2014, Mr Oelofse explained to the community in a public meeting held in Westridge civic centre, our only option for boat operators is Sonwabe.

This would demand a great deal of adjusting to beach launching as is currently the case in Plettenberg Bay.

To this point Sonwabe, Fisherman’s Lane (was last repaired in 2003) and Strandfontein pavilion never got the recognition to uphold the cultural values of the very people that frequent these places.

The following City media reports have an impact on our frustrations, dated February 27 2018 – “Rehabilitation of Sea Point Promenade progressing well”; May 14 – “City undertakes emergency repairs along Beach Road, Strand”; and May 15 – “Emergency repairs to gabion revetment between Small Bay and Big Bay”.

You be the judge.

Several meetings with Mr Oelofse took place on the Sonwabe issue.

We agreed to the beach launching facility at Sonwabe as we felt that the City has had its knee on our neck.

In 2015, Sonwabe was proclaimed in the provincial government gazette as a beach launching facility.

All of the above occurred long before any recommendations to demolish the structures at Sonwabe.

Mr Oelofse was well aware of the Sonwabe proposals and the proclamation that Sonwabe has been declared a beach launching site.

Why spend millions to demolish structures when the monies could have been used to upgrade a cultural place?

Sonwabe remains a popular tourist destination with its fishing activities.

As a coastal community, we must continuously address the coastal economic imbalances that exist within the City of Cape Town.

The re-balance of economic wealth for black coastal communities remains a critical high point. It is for this reason that we call for an exclusive economic zone at all of our nodal points where black coastal communities reside; that we have sovereign rights to all natural resources the coast provides that will sustain human and economic life.

Similar issues are being faced by Abdul Ryklief “Giempie”, who operates as a trek fisher in Fish Hoek.