Dispute over tunnels

The space under the elevated train tracks in Kalk Bay is at the centre of a tussle for community projects.

Presentations at a recent Kalk Bay and St James Ratepayers’ Association meeting revealed that there exists deep disagreement about how the tunnels at Kalk Bay beach should be used, and while two parties claim to have buy-in from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), the agency says it has approved neither of the proposals.

One proposal, which has apparently been in the planning for three years, is the establishment of a kayak polo club under the arches, to teach the sport to young people from the area and encourage the development of a national kayak polo team.

This was revealed at the Kalk Bay and St James Ratepayers’ Association meeting held on Monday April 24.

The proposal suggests that three of the archways be rented out for kayak storage to raise funds for the sports education centre, where children can learn to paddle for free and where jobs for locals can be created. However, Kalk Bay resident and fifth generation fisherman, Faez Poggenpoel, argued that the area had already been identified for the creation of a museum to honour local fisherman and the community history.

Under apartheid, when certain parts of the coastline were reserved for different racial groupings, coloured people were allowed on the area under the arches at Kalk Bay beach.

Mr Poggenpoel’s proposal, which he said was originally drafted 10 years ago, includes the establishment of a museum underneath the archway, which will contribute to upgrading the area, educating individuals on the history of the fisherman’s village and re-create the image of Kalk Bay as a fisherman’s community beach.

While residents at the meeting were not aware of Mr Poggenpoel’s proposal, he said it had been in the works “for years” and that he had discussed it with Prasa. He had not, however, submitted his plans to the municipality as he was still trying to raise funds for it.

“They’re very well aware of this proposal,” Mr Poggenpoel said. “It was presented at the Fishermen’s Flats residents’ AGM in 2013 and the majority of the residents agreed to upgrade the area and educate people on the history of fishermen. In apartheid it was one of the only beaches coloured people could use.

“It was also the start of fishing in Cape Town. The area was called Fisheries Beach before there was a railway,” he said. “We were the only community not moved during the forced removals because of the boats. Prasa has not dealt with the responsibility of protecting the area’s historical significance.”The kayak polo project co-founder Gail Petrie said she and project founder Felix Unite were aware of the museum proposal, but they were not aware of it having been accepted by any of the role players.

“We got approval for our project from everyone, even community members. We will not profit from the project and want the community to take over the project eventually.

“Felix Unite has contributed his experience and knowledge of kayaking to community projects in the Western Cape for over a number of years. His latest idea is to entice the local Kalk Bay community with Canoe polo, a sport that is growing internationally,” said Ms Petrie.

Mr Poggenpoel, however, believed that kayaking was “far from the area’s culture and heritage” and that it would be wrong to ignore the rich culture and heritage that existed.

While Mr Poggenpoel claimed to have got approval for his proposal from Prasa, and Kalk Bay and St Jame’s Ratepayers Association (KBRA) chairman, Tony Trimmel, confirming that Prasa had approved the kayak polo proposal,

Marius Wagener, of Prasa’s Western Cape Region Real Estate Asset Management department, disagreed.

Mr Wagener said that they had not received a proposal for the establishment of a museum on their property and while they had received one for the kayak polo club, this was still under discussion with the “relevant role players”.

He added that meeting will be held with the applicants once a decision had been reached.

“It is a community beach, no one will be compromised where using the area is concerned,” said Mr Trimmel. “It will not be used for commercial interest, but for community interest. Community issues arise all the time in all communities, it will be dealt with. We have to take responsibility in looking after the stretch of beach.” Fisherman’s Flats body corporate chairman, Aashiq Newman, however, said there was enough space for both projects. The kayak project, he said, would only take up three tunnels for the kayak storage and water polo club.

“It will create jobs for two or three community members and they will be able to give tours around the bay. It will uplift the community,” said Mr Newman.

However, Mr Poggenpoel said that the area can never be shared as his proposal aims to open up the beach rather than restrict access to an already small beach.

“Brass Bell already closed the door to one section of the beach. The idea of a heritage project will improve the beach. The kayak project is more of a business for people who are too lazy to carry their kayak to the beach (and) want it to be directly on the beach. They want privilege upon privilege,”

“The entire community has protested before and we will protest against this as well. The harbour users will not pass it. The harbour master has the final say,” said Mr Poggenpoel.

The Echo contacted Kalk Bay Harbour Master Shafiek Ebrahiem, for his input, but he referred us to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who did not respond by the time this edition went to print.

Neither project has been submitted to the municipality for consideration, so there is, as yet, no public participation process. But if you have a view on the matter, you can send your comments to athina.may@inl.co.za