The Cape Town eBulletin Newsletter
March 2005 edition

The Cape Town e-Bulletin newsletter brings you useful local information spiced up with News, Views, Opinions and more..

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Issue #11



Cycle Tour

Harry the Hippo - Followup

When the Earth moves under your feet - by Leonie Joubert

Hi <>

Welcome once again to all my subscribers.

The eBulletin has been on the backburner for a while because I've been concentrating on putting together some new pages for my site, always a time consuming process. Among them is a special page I set up to explain RSS Syndication. RSS is all the rage these days and my page outlines the concept and shows you how to make use of it.

Already we're seeing the orange RSS or XML button on many quality websites. You'll find it's an easy straight forward method of finding web pages and reading the latest information on most topics. Cape Town of course is one of them Cape Town RSS page

A number of issues have come to the fore in recent months - not the least of which has been the ongoing drought conditions in which we find ourselves. Our storage dams are severely depleted and strict water restrictions have been imposed on Cape residents. There is also the issue of houses for all.

Everyone has been affected by the lack of rain, especially Western Cape farmers who have been accustomed to drawing their irrigation requirements from nearby rivers. Their quotas have been cut by some 40%. The affect can be seen on the crops with grasses yellowing and grapes withering. The financial losses to the farmers and the economy are already being felt and a crisis is looming. Many farmers are packing up. Some have even committed suicide. Others say the government should have foreseen the drought and taken steps to address the issue earlier.

All the government can do now is offer financial compensation to the farmers. I somehow doubt that many whose lives are tied up in their lands will be satisfied with that option.

Locally around Cape Town many people seem relatively unconcerned about the implications of the drought. As long as water still runs out of the taps it seems. There are those of course who actively attempt to cut down on their own water consumption, and others who make use of boreholes on their properties. But on the other hand we have residents who are either ignorant, or who blatantly ignore the restrictions.

Watering is now limited to less than half an hour two evenings a week which is hardly sufficient to maintain the garden, and plant nurseries have had to change their stock to more drought resistant indigenous plants because people aren't buying. Garden Service companies are also affected - and car wash companies and laundromats need special permission. We now eagerly await the onset of our winter rain. Lets hope we get enough.

Ironically, topping up your swimming pool is not considered illegal whereas washing your car with a hose is. But apparently if your usual monthly quota is exceeded and discovered to be excessive, you are threatened with court action and could end up a hefty fine. Of course by the time your court case comes around, the dams could be empty anyway.

The local council now say they've not been able to reach their water saving targets 4 times running, despite the stringent restrictions, so something is leaking somewhere and no doubt in a lot of other places. Now we've simply been threated with cut off if we don't comply. Somehow this type of empty threat is not likely to be implemented because of our consitutional rights, so where does it leave us? Well, high and dry it seems unless the local government starts actively seeking alternative water sources, eg desalination or recycling - because yes, we all have rights to fresh water and that commodity is in very short supply.

The Housing Dilemma
All sorts of complications have arisen since city mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo promised houses for all within the next few years. The Cape Town council, finally forced into action by the consequences of a major fire in the 'Joe Slovo' migrant squatter settlement has finally committed to a housing project to be known as the N2 Gateway Project.

The fire victims, some 12,000 of them will be among the first recipients, but eventually all residents of informal settlements along the N2 airport highway will be allocated apartments in specially designed housing units. Those without finance will be subsidised by the government and others will have the option of buying or renting.

This decision to leapfrog long time waiting lists of homeless Cape Town residents has sparked controversy, anger, frustration and racial conflict. Joe Slovo fire victims have been accommodated indefinitely in large tents while attempts are made to secure temporary housing for them on nearby vacant land. They will then be moved into the housing units when they are completed.

Established residents in adjacent areas object to the location of the tempory housing because they foresee an escalation of crime and a lowering of living standards. A delay of several weeks is on the cards for the temporary housing already, and several months before sufficient permanent housing is built.

Street Children
Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo has declared that Cape Town will be cleared of street children by June this year. It's a bold statement and easier said than done. There are simply too many long term social issues involved.

All major centres in South Africa are experiencing escalating problems of children and homeless people living on the streets. The causes are complex and reflect the extent of social problems such as unemployment, drugs and abuse within overcrowded and impoverished communities.

Our own historic Cape Town Grand Parade where thousands of people congregated in 1994 to hear the newly released Nelson Mandela deliver his victory speech, has become run down, unsafe, and a gathering place for street people after hours. Our mayor intends to address these problems in the city by attempting to reconcile runaway children with their families. No easy task because it would require extensive ongoing social resources which are currently very limited.

Street children and vagrants have become a huge problem in Cape Town and surrounding areas. Antisocial behaviour, petty crime, littering and lowering of standards has become commonplace in our beautiful city. The situation has grown out of all proportion and urgently needs addressing by our council. Our mayor is taking steps to try and solve the problem and we wish her every success.

Argus Cycle Tour
In Cape Town, as I write this, we're approaching the end of another dry summer day. A bit warm but otherwise ideal conditions for the Cape Argus Cycle Tour which has the annual effect of motivating thousands of Capetonians and many visitors to climb onto their bicycles in their hordes, and pedal yet another windy undulating 106 km en mass around the Cape Peninsula.

In the 1980s when I was fit and cycled the Tour, there were around 5,000 riders and the roads were less crowded. There is no time to enjoy the scenery if you're going for time. You are swept along by adrenalin and those around you. There's just something compelling about the event. I've seen exhausted cyclists bomb out 10km from the start, yet they're determined to finish even if it takes all day.

To avoid the enthusiastic crush you either positioned yourself near the front of your group or at the rear. These days the 30,000 odd riders are seeded into many more groups and the roads eventually become filled with a whirring mass of bicycles. This doesn't concern the top riders who finish the event well before the last of the slower groups have started. More information on the Argus Tour here Cycle Tour

Remember to tell me what you'd like to see or not see in this newsletter. I've tried to present interesting issues in an informative way.

I'm open to praise or criticism. That being said – read and enjoy!

I look forward to giving you a regular insight into the Cape lifestyle.


Ed Berry

Cape Town Travel Adviser

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Happy Hippo
According to City Parks and Nature Conservation, who was given the run around by a young male hippo as reported in previous eBulletins, Harry Houdini is alive and well and ready to start his own family. Harry was darted and eventually recaptured at Zeekoevlei after a three-and-a-half hour chase in Dec last year. He was then transported to the Pumba Private Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

"The capture and translocation of this animal has thus been instrumental in the formation of a new herd and an opportunity to increase the range of the species," said Dalton Gibbs, manager of the City of Cape Town's Rondevlei Nature Reserve.

Harry has now been joined by two females, and providing he doesn't give them the runaround as well, should soon be the master of his own herd.

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The following article is from

When the earth moves under your feet

Predicting earthquakes is the holy grail to geoscientists, but as the recent tsunami tragedy in South-East Asia indicates, that kind of ability isn't available yet. If it were, would we need it in the Western Cape? Leonie Joubert investigates. The exact GPS position of my desk has shifted between 2 and 20cm during the past year - not because I've rearranged my office but because the tectonic plate upon which the office is built has shifted about that much. According to my bible on earth tectonics, the planet's crust is moving below us at about the same rate at which our fingernails grow.

It's this slow and steady heaving, driven by the convection action of mantle below it, which compresses and stresses the thin, rocky skin of the earth. When sufficient pressure builds up between sections of the crust, it releases a massive output of energy which radiates from the epicentre. The recent Sumatran earthquake recorded 9 on the Richter scale - a measure which is orders of magnitude larger than a quake of 1 on the same scale.

The quake of similar magnitude, which destroyed much of San Francisco in 1906, was caused by the Pacific's tectonic plate jolting northward by a massive '6m along a 430km-long stretch of... fault'.

Both these quakes occurred where massive tectonic plates grind against each other.

The nearest seam between tectonic plates to the Cape wine industry is about 1 500km south, where the African Plate meets the Antarctic Plate somewhere below the Southern Ocean. This is a little closer than Sri Lanka was to the epicentre of the Boxing Day quake.

But there's more going on in the Western Cape's immediate geology, picked up in regular seismic ripples. In 2003, over 40 such tremors were recorded in the Ceres area alone. Most were too small to be detected by people in the area but speak directly to a dynamic earth.

More dramatic events have occurred in the region during recent centuries. A study published in the Geological Survey in 1974 listed over 50 earthquakes and tremors in the south-western Cape since 1620, six of which are estimated to have been a magnitude of five or greater on the Richter scale. One such event, in 1809, was later estimated to have an epicentre 'relatively close to Cape Town'.

'Apart from the damage and destruction to buildings in and around Cape Town,' the report stated, 'surface fissures appeared between Milnerton and Killarney of up to 10cm wide, 2km long and deeper than 3m, accompanied by sand volcanoes... water spouted from the sand volcanoes to a height of 2m. The actual magnitude of the earthquake must have been at least close to M=6.5 (on the Richter scale).'

More recently, the Ceres-Tulbagh quakes of 1969 and 1970, measured magnitudes of 6.3 and 5.7 respectively, with the former resulting in extensive damage, deaths, 'sand boils', waterspouts and cracks in the ground.

Geologists can pinpoint with reasonable accuracy where the likely sources are for seismic activity. The problem is that they just can't say when they'll happen and it's this that makes earthquakes the most dangerous of the hazards Nature has in her arsenal.

Some new pages on my Cape Town Travel Adviser website for you to check out.

Cape Town Travel Adviser RSS page

Nelson Mandela News

Overberg Accommodation

Victoria Falls Safaris

Property in Cape Town

Lots more interesting stuff for you on my Cape Town travel website. Check it out here Cape Town Travel Adviser

That's all from me for now <>. Speak to you in the next issue.

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