Hout Bay residents call for IY library to reopen

The doors of the Imizamo Yethu library remain closed.

Hout Bay residents are demanding to know why the Imizamo Yethu satellite library remains closed.

The City of Cape Town closed the library in 2016, citing several “structural issues” with the building.

However, Camilla Wilson and Tjarla Norton, two residents highlighting economic and social issues in Imizamo Yethu, believe the library should be reopened, as it represents a much-needed “safe space” for the children and youth of the settlement. The library is located on the same property as the Siluncedo edu-centre and aftercare. The residents’ call for the library to be reopened was heightened after an official was seen carrying out an audit at the facility last week. The official apparently told residents that books intended for Imizamo Yethu were delivered to the main library every two weeks.

The books were apparently being stockpiled in anticipation of a new library being opened.

“In October last year, a group of nine young fire victims came to us, telling us that they had nowhere to study or do their homework in IY,” Ms Wilson said.

“We eventually managed to hire a space for them at the Iziko Lobomi Centre, but the point is that there are no safe spaces for kids in IY. The library would surely serve this purpose.”

The women met with ward councillor Roberto Quintas in November about a separate issue, but the library dilemma was mentioned as well. They were told the library building was condemned and was unsafe. A new library was also planned as part of the Imizamo Yethu formal housing scheme, they were told.

“One of the ladies who used to work in the library said there were leaks and the walls were cracked, but that could be easily fixed. Why can’t the City get this library up and running? We are always complaining about education levels in this country, but then surely our kids should be reading in libraries. There are a lot of criticisms but no solutions.” Ms Wilson also proposed that the library space be used for counselling sessions.

“There has been a lot of focus on fires and devastation in IY, but there is also a desperate need for facilities for all the residents of Imizamo Yethu.”The women say they have also heard from the community that parents are reluctant to allow their children to walk to the Hout Bay library to study and work on school projects.

This was as a result of an eight-year-old girl being raped while walking to the library in 2008.
IY Movement leader Mkhululi Ndude supported the women’s call for the library to reopen.

“There are cracks in the library, but these were supposed to have been fixed. But our kids need this library. They shouldn’t have to walk all the way to the main library, because it’s not safe for them,” he said.

He also questioned why the space was used for an edu-care centre serving only a limited number of children, when a library could be used by all the people of Imizamo Yethu.

Mr Quintas confirmed that the library had been closed because of structural problems. “I concur that IY kids should not have to travel the distance to the Hout Bay library, and to this end I am in the process of securing a mobile library to serve IY,” he said. “Unfortunately, many new projects have been put on hold because of the water crisis.

“Budgets have had to be slashed dramatically, and, unfortunately, the parks, sports and recreational department is the first to suffer since it is deemed non-essential services in such circumstances.”

However, he said he would be following up on the progress of the mobile library and that he had been in discussions with the City’s head of libraries and the head Hout Bay librarian over the roll-out of this project.