Edgar Theunissen, with the Ockhuis family. They live in Hangberg beyond the fire break in a home he is still building. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Edgar Theunissen sits on the hewn stone steps leading up to the one-bedroomed cabin in which he, his pregnant girlfriend, her brother, and two toddlers live.

The toddlers play in the small grassy yard next to the tiny vegetable patch where he grows cauliflower and other fresh produce on the slopes of the Sentinel, a rocky peak guarding the entrance by sea to Hout Bay.

His home, pieced together with whatever building materials he could find, stands at the uppermost reaches of what is colloquially known as Die Sloot in Hangberg, a sea of shacks and cabins lies below reaching all the way down to the council housing flats down the road from the multi-million rand mansions of Hout Bay.

Edgar Theunissen with his family. Video: Lance Witten/Cape Argus

"Look at how we have to live here," Theunissen says, gesturing to the river of sewage running the length of the row of houses, along the fire break that separates the land managed by SANParks and the land on which the settlement stands.

There is no electricity and no running water.

The residents of Hangberg don't condone the violence recently seen in Hout Bay. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

The residents make do with what they have, making illegal electricity connections, running leads across each other's zinc roofs, running the risk of electrocution and fire. 

Fire is a real risk this close to the fynbos, but there is no alternative.

Residents of Hangberg risk electrocution and fire to make illegal electricity connections, but they all try to help each other out with power. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

"You know, the least the government can do is provide us all with cabins. Like wendy houses, on stilts. Then, when it rains, our shacks won't wash away. Our children stay sick because of the damp and the cold." 

In 2009, land invaders settled on this very patch of property. Their shacks were cut down in the dead of night because they were built dangerously close to the fire break.

Die Sloot, in Hangberg, Hout Bay. Video: Lance Witten/Cape Argus

"But when Imizamo Yethu (right across the bay) builds on the fire break, the government and SANParks just raises it. Why can't they do that for us? They want us to stay like this..."

Theunissen agrees with the need to protest, as their voices have not been heard when they raise their concerns via legitimate channels.

There is a sprawling township that starts just behind the council flats in Hangberg. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

"But I don't agree that you must break down, burn and destroy. That's not on. How will people then look kindly on your plight? They think we all (Hangberg residents) are hooligans, because a handful of us went on the rampage? Is that fair? To say, 'no, your kind don't deserve to be taken care of because look how you behave'?"

Theunissen only wants the best for his family, and does what he can to help uplift the community he loves. 

Children play in the alleyways of Die Sloot, a settlement in Hangberg, Hout Bay. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

He is the life skills coach for the Hout Bay Leopards soccer club. He teaches the children he comes into contact with that a life of crime and poaching is not the only way out of the poverty they find themselves mired in.

"We do what we can with the little we have to try and make a difference. But the government needs to come here and listen to us. We have good ideas for improving ourselves.

"Many of us have skills that aren't put to good use. Why not provide us with a marketplace, like an open-air trading post where we can show off our skills and services? Why not set us up with eco-friendly cabins? Look at this view. You don't think tourists would want to get this township experience?

Waste water and sewage runs right past the homes in Die Sloot, in Hangberg. Video: Lance Witten/Cape Argus

"All we need is a little bit of help, and for the government - whether it's the City, the province, or national - to come and listen to us.

"We might not be the most educated people in the world, but we're not stupid."

[email protected]

Cape Argus