A night photograph of Taiwan Informal settlement in Site C khayelitsha.City has R62.5m to spend on public lighting but none of that will be spent on Khayelitsha where a lack of lighting's been highlighted as a safety risk. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has R62.5 million to spend on public lighting in the 2019/20 financial year, but none of that money will be spent on Khayelitsha, where a lack of lighting had been highlighted as a risk to safety.

The 2014 commission of inquiry into policing in the township found a lack of adequate street lights contributed to crime in the area. 

While there are plans to install more 40m high-mast lights in Khayelitsha, these will only come to fruition in the next five years. 

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC), which urged Premier Helen Zille in 2012 to launch the 2014 inquiry, responded. 

“There is no reason why Khayelitsha…should not be receiving the lighting that residents elsewhere in the City have on their streets,” said SJC co-head of programmes Dalli Weyers. 

“The City itself states that the high-mast spotlights aren’t effective in their design and management guidelines for a safer city, and yet this is what Khayelitsha has and will continue to receive from the City,” he said. 

The City said plans were in place to install more high-mast lights, but there were concerns about vandalism and theft of street lights and infrastructure. 

“In Site C, vandalism in the area is a massive problem; the protests of last year really had a massive effect on the lighting in the area as well,” said the City Council’s mayoral committee member for energy and climate change Phindile Maxiti.

The City also said it had experienced issues such as vandalism, theft, safety of staff and the impact of protests over recent months in the area that had had an effect on the maintenance of existing public lighting. Ward councillor for Site B, Khayelitsha, Thando Mpengezi said: “The City has no proper plan to address the issue of adequate street lighting in the area. Their budget does not indicate how much they plan on spending in Khayelitsha, even.” 

Residents remained concerned about their safety. Khayelitsha Development Forum chairperson Ndithini Thyhido said: “It’s very dark in Khayelitsha and we are concerned that the City is failing in its responsibility to implement the recommendations of the police commission of inquiry.”

The SJC said the installation of mast lighting harked back to apartheid when the bare minimum was done to provide lighting to townships. Weyers said the mast lights cast deep shadows, making it dangerous for residents to move around after dark. 

Maxiti said the SJC’s claims were unfounded, and the City was working with the group. “That sentiment is not correct. We wrote to the SJC and we invited them to come and meet with us so that we could explain our plan. The one thing they don’t understand is that there are very few areas in Khayelitsha that have no lighting.”

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Cape Argus