The History of Imizamo Yethu
The township of Imizamo Yethu is situated in the picturesque seaside suburb of Hout Bay in Cape Town. Hout Bay is like a microcosm of South Africa, with a wealthy, mainly white community, living alongside the black community in Imizamo Yethu and another coloured community in the township of Hangklip near the harbour. Imizamo Yethu has a population of roughly 14,000 residents, who are mainly Xhosa speaking. The informal settlement was established in the early 1990s when 450 families who had been squatting in shacks around Hout Bay were moved to this new area on the side of a mountain overlooking the harbour.
Imizamo Yethu, meaning ‘through collective struggle’, is a site and service scheme situated on 18 hectares of land made available by the former Western Cape Regional Services Council to accommodate Hout Bay’s squatters. In 1988/89, Hout Bay experienced invasions of state and privately owned land similar to Marconi Beam. Collective action by squatters to obtain legal property rights and reaction from existing property owners in Hout Bay forced the authorities to make formal property available for the ‘squatters’. Forestry land at Imizamo Yethu was made available in late 1990 and 429 sites were occupied in March/April 1991 (Gawith and Sowman 1992, Oelofse 1994). These were registered ‘squatters’ and the site was regarded as a transit area while the formal layout was being planned. Included in the agreement for formal property, lodgers were supposed to move together with the household and that any additional sites might be allocated to them once all the registered households had been accommodated. Surveying and demarcation commenced in 1993.
The majority of the community are black Xhosa speakers from the Eastern Cape. There are also a number of coloured people who hail from the traditional squatter communities. There are reputed to be a number of informal settlement dwellers from other parts of Africa such as Angola and Zaire living in the buffer zone of Imizamo Yethu. One hypothesis posited is that these people entered the country illegally having docked in Hout Bay in fishing trawlers.