Letter to the OCA from one of our members regarding informal settlements in Obs

Good afternoon,

I hope I am sending this to the correct email addresses; please excuse if this is not the case.

First of all I would like to say I appreciate and am very grateful for all the hard work the OCA and Obsid are doing to protect Obs residents in various ways. Well done!

There is one concern that I am getting more and more worried about and I don’t see any mention of it in the last few OCA newsletters. It is regarding the growing informal settlement in front of what used to be Arcadia Place. Another Obs resident sent me a news link a few days ago saying that through a court order it is more difficult for the CoCT to evict illegal settlers. It is probably a Human Rights issue and I fully understand that humans need to be protected from all forms of cruelty and injustice. However, I wonder about the human rights of Obs residents? The ones that pay exorbitant property rates (I pay more than R1000/per month by now) and ever growing base charges that are being added to electricity and water bills? The same residents that have put up with monstrous developments right next to them, that have accepted the constant car break ins, house breaks ins, drug dealing in broad daylight right in front of our houses, muggings, restaurant and shop robberies, hijackings and all sorts of petty crime happening in Obs. Having an illegal settlement right on our doorstep is getting too much to bear. The property market is a nightmare for sellers as it is, so considering to simply sell the property is not much of an option currently. Plus, most of us love living in Obs and would rather stay, but personally I am worried that crime is getting out of hand now with so many vagrants/illegal settlers (not sure how to call them) and resulting increased number of beggars. I feel more and more unsafe both at home and walking around even in daylight, and I avoid going to Pick n Pay altogether (I drive to the one at Gardens Centre by now). My friend has similar concerns, especially as he is worried about his young daughter walking to her local college where she studies.

I am getting very worried about this and would just like to know if the OCA and Obsid know about any recent developments there and what their stand is on this matter. If there is nothing we as residents can do to protect ourselves then I’d rather try to sell my beloved Obs property now, even at a loss, before the settlement grows out of hand and property values are reduced to junk status, as we have seen in other parts of the city.

Thanks for your time reading this and I would kindly appreciate a response, even if it was in a newsletter or similar for all Obs residents to read.

Kind regards,

OCA RESPONSE to the email


Apologies for not getting back to you before this but things have been really hectic

Firstly, the rise in crime is a phenomenon that post-dated the occupation on the Main Rd.

It has coincided with the COVID-19 lock down, the economic impacts of the lockdown, and is a product of the increasing deprivation all around us. I have had my car broken into three times in the last two months.

I am not happy about it but I am not going to attribute it to people who are visibly on the street in Observatory without any evidence.

I believe this is criminal elements taking advantage of the situation to their own benefit.

I can’t really comment on the property market fluctuations but as far I know, it’s a buyer’s market all over Cape Town. Friends of mine in other suburbs say the same thing as you do, so I don’t think it is correct to correct the property market patterns to the presence of homeless in Obs.

I don’t shop at the Pick’nPay in Obs, not because it is hazardous to park there, but because I think it is unsafe from a COVID-19 transmission perspective – it’s too small and too confined. I happily do business at the chemist and copyshop at St Peter’s and don’t experience any concerns about safety.

OBSID has programmes to offer long-term homeless persons access to supported housing through Streetscapes that working quite successfully and OCA is assisting them on that.

The particular occupation on the main road at Arcadia, called Singabalapha, started back in October 2019 and there was no spike in crime then – the spike is since COVID-19 lockdown.

If anything, that cluster of people at Singabalapha are well organised and do not intrude into the fabric of Observatory 

While there are certainly people who are taking advantage of the situation to break the law, we should be careful to paint all those who are obviously at the margins as criminal.

It is not a crime to be poor.

It is not a crime to be homeless.

What is a crime is to break into someone’s house or into someone’s car.

While it may look like an eyesore to you, that is not a basis to attribute criminal activity.  

The Singabalapha currently occupy a small piece of land that belongs to the City of Cape Town.

If the City want to evict them from the land they are on, they will have to follow the legal process to do so.  That the City have not been able to do so is because they are not following the law 

The City sent their law enforcement officials to raid the Singabalapha occupation (and issue fines and threaten to confiscate property) but there was no purpose to such harassment which was not about crime prevention, but about making life as difficult as possible for a group of people for whom there is no evidence of being linked to the crime we are seeing in Observatory.

The OCA does not support the harassment of the Singabalapha occupation by City Law Enforcement officials who should be spending their time and effort in addressing exactly the prevention of crime we see and in supporting COVID-19 control.  We are paying OBSID additional rates for SRA and OBSID has to shoulder the responsibility of patrolling Observatory Streets but we do not see City Law Enforcement patrolling Observatory Streets. We do not see City Law Enforcement offering any support or assistance in reducing crime. A solution based simply on chasing black people back to the townships is not sustainable in South Africa 

I hope that helps to clarify some issues around your concerns.