The History of Hout Bay
Hout Bay derives its name from the Dutch for Bay of Wood, for which it was apparently known in the early settlement days of the Western Cape as a good source of wood for ship building and repairs. It survived as a fishing and agricultural community for over three hundred years. It is one of the few sheltered natural small boat harbours and it was briefly occupied by the French in 1788. Until the 1950’s, the land in Hout Bay was used primarily for agricultural purposes. The valley is physically separated from the rest of Cape Town by an enclosure of mountains forming main part of the Table Mountain range. Under colonial and apartheid racial segregation policies the Hout Bay urban area was zoned as a white residential suburb (Group Areas Act 1950) with the exception of the area above the harbour which was zoned for occupation by coloureds. Most of this coloured community worked in the harbour.
The subdivision of farms as a result of growing urbanisation of the area displaced a large number of labourers, most of whom were coloured, whose families had resided there for many years. These became the ‘traditional squatters’ who had a long association with the land in Hout Bay (Zille 1990 in Gawith and Sowman 1992). In addition the need for labour in the harbour attracted black migrant workers who were precluded from ownership or secure leases by group areas legislation. Squatting occurred sporadically by pockets of people for more than fifty years. Initially the effects were minimal on the existing white middle class community as squatting occurred along the Disa River banks and in the backyards of corporate accommodation supplied by the fishing industry. However by the late 1990 more than 2000 people lived in five main informal settlements, the largest being Princess Bush and Sea Products near Hout Bay harbour. Other smaller settlements developed at Disa River, Blue Valley and Dawids Kraal. Residents came from the harbour area, from other settlements on the Cape Flats and from rural areas (Gawith and Sowman 1992).