Imizamo Yethu library closed for repairs for two years and counting

The City made it sound like it would be operational in no time, says community leader

Photo of a building

The library in Imizamo Yethu has been closed for two years. Archive photo: Steve Kretzmann

By Thembela Ntongana

23 February 2018

The library in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, has been closed for two years. And it’s unclear when it will reopen.

Mayoral Committee Member for Area North, Councillor Suzette Little told GroundUp that standard library guidelines state that access to a library should be within a five kilometre radius, and 80% of people should have access to a library within a three kilometre radius. “The Imizamo Yethu community is well within a three kilometre radius of the Hout Bay Library,” she said.

The library had been closed for six months when GroundUp first reported it in August 2016. At the time Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services, said the library was temporarily closed “due to structural issues” and that it would be reopened “once the structural issues (roof) have been addressed.”

Community leader Clifford Nogwavu said: “We thought by now the library would be operational … When the library closed the City made it sound like it would be operational in no time.”

Sihle Baleka, a grade 8 pupil at Silikamva High School in Imizamo Yethu, said her school library closes at 5pm. “We can stay to do our assignments but I prefer coming home because our school is situated in a bushy area with lots of trees. Anything can happen, it’s not safe.” She wishes the Imizamo Yethu library would reopen. She lives in the highest part of the informal settlement area called Shooting Range. It is a stiff walk back from the Hout Bay Public Library.

Camilla Wilson, who has been working with children in Imizamo Yethu since the devastating fire a year ago, said: “There is nowhere for these kids to go after school … We have asked the ward councillor and he says there wil be a library in a new building … That in reality could take up to four years. What about now?”

Ward Councillor Roberto Quintas said the old library building had been condemned and was now used as a store room for library books.

He confirmed that the City had agreed that there was “the need for an established library for Imizamo Yethu” and that “it is something that needs to be incorporated into the [new] community facility space” that is planned for the area.

He said it was difficult to say when this would happen, but the aim was to complete the buildings by 2020. He said protests last year which targeted construction equipment and kept contractors off site had set things back.

“I have started a process of applying for a container satellite library for Imizamo Yethu, and we are awaiting approval of the container, and then the necessary adaption and conversion,” said Quintas.