Obama’s Cape Visit Was An Enlightening Affair

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

Heavy traffic congestion while travelling from Simonstown last Sunday afternoon brought to a halt the short lived driving lesson for our teenager. It necessitated a change of route that made for a jerky journey via the Fish Hoek avenues. Notorious for its speed bumps and circles, this brilliant solution for controlling travel speeds around schools is not for the fainthearted parent of a learner driver.

The pile up from Newlands to Noordhoek followed President Obama’s historic address at the University of Cape Town. The venue from where many journalists relayed their stories of a first ever security experience, of being in the ‘lock-up’ for four hours prior to the event, plus our oldest receiving his UCT newsflash, announcing no access to the upper campus for 24 hours.

The great excitement among residents of the Far Southern Peninsula community was tangible. Some who are property owners, landlords or tenants, ranging from the upper to middle and low income brackets across many local and foreign cultures. The Obama’s next stop was made at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation for Youth, a beneficiary of the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and one of many philanthropic projects in Masiphumelele.

Thousands of residents caught up in traffic jams were satisfied to catch a glimpse of a waving Michelle Obama as the presidential calvalcade moved over Ou Kaapse Weg. And many of us who witnessed the four US military helicopters doing a practice run last Thursday, were happy to leave the crowds to welcome President Obama to the now famous Silverglades sport fields.

The atmosphere was bright and cheerful at Masi, located in a low lying wetlands area overlooking Chapman’s Peak and private estates of Lake Michelle and The Lakes. Originally planned for 20 000, this township is now home to 40 000 residents, mostly hailing from the Eastern Cape and neighbouring African countries. The location of the township, close to Fish Eagle and Heron Park industrial areas, as well the suburbs of Capri, Kommetjie and Sun Valley, offer employment opportunities and public transport to Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs and the city.

Most Masi residents rent timber shacks from well-to-do landlords, while others are proud homeowners of brick houses, ranging in size from one to three bedrooms, and some double storeys, obtainable from around R250 000. Brick houses are facilitated through government housing projects, NGO’s and corporate institutions. Tireless efforts of volunteers, such as that of Doctor Lutz van Djik and his team will see the Amakhaya Ngoku housing project, and Phase 4 of the Subsidised Housing Project of 252 houses, shortly going ahead.

Title Deeds in Masi is a hard earned commodity, since tiny plots measuring anywhere from 30 to 50m2, can sell for up to R100 000. Absorbitant rentals provide a strong income stream where unemployment is around 80%. In some cases, quadruple rentals replace household incomes, when desperate foreigners are exploited in paying up to R1500 per month to rent single room units, that are sub-let from a base rental of R400.

The unavailability of allocated land for development, due to the sensitive wetlands surroundings, has seen demand outstripping supply, for decades. Land previously earmarked for future low income housing, has already been allocated to the waiting list of the City’s Housing Data Base. Enquiries about property to buy or rent in Masi lead to complex social and political networks, and long waiting lists at local authorities. As a result, many local employers facilitate low interest loans and administrative assistance to aspirant home owners.

Last week’s US presidential visit to Masi highlighted more than the plight of residents. It emphasised numerous philanthropic and volunteer intervention projects, where educational and entrepreneurial tools facilitate the improvement of thousands of lives.

For more information: www.masicorp.org

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