Community Voices: “Why We Chose to Live in K2 Informal Settlement”

By 8th Feb 2016 CORC, ISN

As community members gathered in a neighbour’s large living area in the centre of K2 informal settlement in Khayelitsha, the room continued filling up with more people who had been called to join a “documentation workshop” about the settlement. As some members began to discuss the possible purposes of documentation, they began to link the value of the workshop to the value of establishing a record and copy of their experiences of life lived in K2. This blog reflects the experiences of K2 informal settlement as told and written down by K2 residents themselves.


First Documentation Workshop in K2


Anecdotes: When We First Arrived in K2

By: Nolutho Vava, Mrs Maxhegwana, Neliswa Ngqiyi, Nomzi Xhalanga, Thobeka Mnyuko, Ndileka Matiwane, Nonyameko Ganelo, Sibongiseni Cokile, Nthmbekhaya Mathamba

“I arrived in K2 in 1987. I left Constantia because of apartheid. When I first arrived [in K2] I stayed in my brother’s shack. [At the time] there were about ten shacks in this place. Because I had children of my own I had to build my own shack but only a number of people had the right to stay here. In 1989 people protested to get the right to build their own shack. They then managed to [convince] their leaders (who were the decision makers) and [we] were charged money in order to get space to build. The leaders [at the time] were not chosen by the people so they did not have the people’s interest at heart.”

“When travelling from Wynberg to Khayelitsha there was only one street taking you to the bus stop. When it was windy you wouldn’t go anywhere or even open the doors. There was too much sand.”


“I arrived in K2 in the year 2000. It was a very dirty place then with reeds growing and dirty water flowing. The houses and shacks were surrounded by reeds. There was no fresh air. We breathed in the smelly air – people were throwing poo between the houses. Some people were throwing pee-buckets. It was so unhealthy. There were no toilets, no water, and no electricity. Some brave people would go to green point bushes to relieve themselves.”

“In 2001 more people were moving into our settlement. We (as people) removed the reeds and made space for more people to come. Even after removing the reeds the water was still flowing underneath our shacks especially when it was raining. But it got better when the municipality built the toilets in 2007. But some shacks are still in damp areas.” 

Authors of this Blog, K2 Community Khayelitsha

Authors of this Blog, K2 Community Khayelitsha

Why we chose to live in K2

By Nolubabalo Mkonto, Zanele Ngqeyi, Tina Gqamane, Busisiwe Koko, JJ, Nopinky

  • We moved to K2 from the Eastern Cape because we were looking for a job and most of us didn’t have a place to stay. K2 was the only area that had space to build in.
  • We are close to police stations, shopping malls, taxis, trains, busses and schools
  • We can walk to these places and don’t have to pay anything
  • We are happy about electricity. In 2011 our leadership negotiated with the City of Cape Town
  • We have a [outdoor] crèche for our children
  • Some of us are employed as cleaners with the City’s Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP), 4 days a week
  • The residents appreciate the cleanliness of K2 – we have containers to keep rubbish and rubbish cars can come in and out
Community writers collect challenges of living in K2

Community writers collect challenges of living in K2

Challenges of living in K2

By: all members in workshop

  • Toilets are far from some shacks, some have no doors, some are blocked / broken and there is a delay in repairing them
  • Drains get blocked and the municipality turns a blind eye. We’d stay for more than four months with those smelly drains
  • When toilets and drains are blocked the water causes little dams that have green water which can cause a lot of diseases
  • Too many rats – the rats can infect us
  • Taps are few and they are far from other shacks
  • Robbers are available because of light failures, especially at night
  • No parks for children
  • Shacks are too close to each other, e.g. when there is fire a lot of houses get destroyed. Some of our children (who are already over 24) still stay with their parents –but there is not enough space for them to have their own place.
Communal toilet block in K2

Communal toilet block in K2

Where we are now 

“When we think about our situation now we would be happy to have a larger place to stay with our own yard, own toilets and taps, and to be safe from fire. The question of space is important to us because even when we have problems (e.g. funerals) we cannot do them here because we don’t have enough space.

We met the Informal Settlement Network at a community meeting in Andile Msizi Hall in Khayelitsha where the regional ISN leader invited us.”

Since the community’s engagement with ISN and FEDUP, K2 has collected data about its settlement in full enumeration and profiling exercises. These have formed the foundation for community-based plans for upgrading and reblocking.

Co-Planning for the Upgrading of K2

Co-Planning for the Upgrading of K2


“As I am new here today I know how they struggled as K2. By hearing this story now I have hope that one day things here will be much better because so far K2 is improving. I can now tell the story to the others” (Reflection by K2 community member on community-generated documentation)

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