Portfolio reports October 2023

Archcom – Paul Higgins

Archcom meeting was held on 10 Oct 2023, attended by Gordon Hart, Lise Carswell, Ulf Martz and me.
Two new plans were submitted, and both were approved.
Two Standards issues were commented on for Robbie / Connor.

Waterways – Ralph Richards

Zandvlei MouthClosed 17th October, Open 24th, Closed 31st
Progress of new weed harvesterCommissioning early December
Kingfisher 0peration3 sightings 4th and 5th Oct
DredgingStarts January 24th
Nets at Sand River mouthCleaned every second day – Nothing to report for October
Water qualityParameterDateValueLimit
e-coli19th Sep26 MPN/100ml< 1000 MPN/100ml
Chlorophyll (algae)5th Oct99 µg/l< 100 µg/l
Boat patrols by reserveDone weekly – Nothing untoward in October
Cleaning of coral wormManual clean 10th Oct under Park Island bridge
Sewage SpillEmanating from Pollsmoor, entering the Westlake River and then into Zandvlei – 9th Oct. CoCT team at the location and reducing further pollution. Reported by Cllr Carolynne Franklin
ZEMPAttended draft report presented 11th October
Water depthNo information from ZENR Management. Will follow up
Liaison with StakeholdersUrban Liveable Waterways Presentation21st SepTo get a better understanding of the project and how it will affect Marina da Gama.Show support for the initiative.Make further contacts
Reserve Manager6th OctMake contact with Kyran Wright and discuss the waterways portfolio. Some extra contacts were provided. Information such as opening and closing of the mouth, dredging dates, commissioning of new Harvester and cleaning of coral worm was provided. Requested to contact him on a regular basis for information on the Pop-up and monthly report.
Draft proposal of the ZEMP11th OctTo get a better understanding of the project and how it will affect Marina da Gama.Show support for the initiative.Make further contacts.A summary and my interpretation of the ZEMP is in the pipeline.

Communications – Lise Carswell

  • The website is falling apart and it isn’t possible to update certain pages which are showing outdated information.
  • Proposal to the Excom to close down the facebook page or at least make it only for Excom to post.
  • Newsletters sent out on schedule.

Conservation and engagement – Caitlin Melidonis

Past Month’s Activities

  • Full moon walk took place on Park Island on 31 September with six residents in attendance. Four grysbok were sighted along with a barn owl, night herons, bats, chameleons and many spiders!
  • Attended the presentation of the Estuary Management Plan for Zandvlei – Marina residents are still able to comment on the document online and have been encouraged to do so in the latest MDGA newsletter.

Issue/s requiring attention

  • Drafting and circulation of information sheet about injured wild animals (who to call, what to do etc.)

Additional dates for a second full moon walk and bird walk before the end of the year to be discussed with Nature Reserve Staff

Events – Valerie Benson

Marina Children’s Christmas Party – proposed date Saturday 16 December 2023
Have provisionally booked Father Christmas (David Muller) pending costs 
Need to check status of MDGA music equipment, speakers etc 

Marina Christmas Carols – proposed date Sunday 17 December 2023
Have contacted Mike English and original Carols band and advised proposed Carols date which they are happy with. 
Confirmed Don from Eastlake Island as the piper for the Marina Carols. He has played at them before. 

Marina Halloween Walk – Sunday 29 October 2023 from 4pm to 6pm
18 houses all through the Marina will be handing out sweets for the Marina Halloween Walk.
Every child is to be accompanied by an adult on the walk at all times
Those residents wishing to participate in the walk can obtain a map from me in exchange for a bag of sweets which will go to Where Rainbows Meet in Vrygrond. I will be handing out maps at Eastlake Island shopping center on Sunday 29 October 2023 between 3pm and 4pm.

COUNCIL – Demetri Qually

At its October meeting, Subcouncil 19 has supported the proposal to reserve a portion of land to the east of Capricorn Park for use as a Temporary Relocation Area (TRA). This is in order to be able to relocate the people who illegally invaded Nature Reserve land and thus restore its conservation status.

The report can be viewed here


Municipal Infrastructure – Ulf Martz

  1. Past Month’s Activities

The last month’s activities revolved around liaison with the City of Cape Town officials regarding the re-instatement of the collapsed wall, the planning of alternative access routes to ZENR, Meeting with The New World Foundation director, and inquiry into the CoCT fence installed at its pump station on PGD.

  • Collapsed Boundary Wall

Sections of the northern boundary wall had collapsed after a storm. The matter had been addressed and communicated to the City of Cape Town officials, and with the assistance of Valerie Benson, the City of Cape Town (CoCT) implemented temporary fencing to close off the area due to security concerns. However, the temporary fence was removed leaving an open passageway through the wall, which poses a security risk.

Further communication between the MDGA and City officials and councillors ensued.

Whilst the onus of reinstating the section of boundary wall falls on the property owner, in this case the CoCT, they appear to be reluctant to build a new wall.

The whole section of the wall also poses a safety risk as parts of it will fall. It is recommended that the existing wall be demolished and rebuilt to structurally sound standards. This will need to be done by the City of Cape Town, as the wall is on their property and poses an Occupational Health and Safety risk to the public.

The wall was poorly constructed (or repaired) in the first place, with no evidence of structurally sound best practices, and the wall has rotated off the vertical, which could be a result of poor workmanship, or that no adequate foundations have been provided. Additional signs of structural failure are evident.

Recommendations would be for the City of Cape Town to take ownership and repair the wall to structurally sound standards.

Whilst the boundary wall does not rest with the Infrastructure Portfolio, it is recommended that the MDGA through its collaborative efforts with the various stakeholders and primarily with the council, to drive the reconstruction of this section of wall.

Further sections of the wall had collapsed posing further risks to public safety.

Mitigating measures have been considered whereby quotations for a ClearVu© fence be erected, just south of the boundary wall so that it will not be seen as a replacement of a permanent wall, which would still rest with the CoCT to re-install, to MDGA design codes.

It is further noted that the fence is foremost proposed as a security deterrent and not seen as a replacement of the wall.

It is also recommended that the proposal (and quotations) be presented to members via an OGM, for their “buy-in” and approval, via a resolution.

Water and Sanitation

The city has fenced off its pump station of PGD.

  • Issues requiring attention.
  • Further engagement with the City of Cape Town to escalate the repair work that needs to be done at the northern boundary wall, via the MDGA office.
  • Whilst a city official has notified the MDGA that they (City) have no objection to the MDGA erecting a fence on their property, this will need to be formalised in writing and signature.
  • To re-initiate the engagement with the City of Cape Town to bring the M4-M5 road link forward and not leave it under long term planning as published in the District Development Framework Plan. This should be part of the conditions imposed by the TIA for the imminent densification of Vrygrond.
  • Additional engagement with the CoCT/ Province regarding the proposed access through Oudevlei Road and the Special Needs School/ ZENR access road.
  • Resolution on the way forward with all Marina da Gama Boundary Wall, in terms of Standards and Council DAMS compliance.

Parks and Gardens – Valerie Benson

Meeting with Park Island CID Garden Portfolio holder (Euvrard Loubser), Park Island garden representative (Cherry Giljam) on 2nd October 2023 and subsequent meeting with Park Island CID Chairman (Boudje Giljam) on 12th October 2023

  • Met with the above parties from Park Island CID to discuss the recent planting of Thibault Walk Park and its impact on local ball games. The Park Island CID made the decision and approached council for permission to put up signage on the park re organised ball games and the planting of succulents to protect the grass in the relevant public open space.
  • Met with Park Island CID Chairman, Boudje Giljam, to discuss how Park Island CID would work in conjunction with the MDGA going forward. Park island CID has plans for their own POS and have a budget to add to the MDGA budget in terms of the MDGA Parks and Gardens. Information as to their plans to be made available to the MDGA in advance of each Tuesday that the Marina Gardeners are present.

Meeting with Cannon Island / Eastlake Island and Uitsig Peninsula garden representatives – Monday 16 October 2023 Met with the Marina garden representatives for Uitsig Peninsula and Eastlake Island/Cannon Island, today 16.10.2023 re the following:

  • Eastlake Island CID and Park Island CID – how they function alongside MDGA as they also have budgets for Parks and Gardens along with a budget for other portfolios – I advised that the Eastlake CID would only probably be active next year as it takes a year to 18 months to be approved. We are working alongside Park Island CID to smooth out the way forward seeing as it is new to both of our organisations. No changes to the way things operate at present is foreseen though. Park island CID’s Parks and Garden budget would be in addition to the MDGA budget for the portfolio.
  • Mowing of Public Open Spaces in the Marina – council has not mowed regularly so grass seeds are out of control. I have emailed the Parks department at council to raise this
  • Signage to protect our flower beds from pets running through them, destroying plants and leaving deposits in the beds – asked Andie to get quotes for 4 signs for three islands
  • Andie mentioned that there is a bluegum tree in Cannon Island that has branches dangerously long. I have raised this to the council Parks department
  • The Uitsig and Cannon Island/Eastlake garden represents will provide a small Christmas lunch for the Marina Gardeners as they did last year as a thank you. They voluntarily do this out of their own pocket and wish to continue in this way this year.
  • Council Parks department taking a long time to collect the garden refuse once the Marina Gardeners have been on a Tuesday. I have raised this to the council Parks department but we will also get quotes from local Marina residents who would be able to transport the refuse timeously away during the course of the same week that the Marina Gardeners have worked.


  1. Crime.

Muizenberg SAPS –

  • No Muizenberg or Sectoral crime figures were reported for this period up to 27.9.2023.
  • No murders had been committed, but there was a sharp increase in house breaking, thefts of and from vehicles.
  • The meeting was conducted by Lt Colonel Lourens in the absence of Captain Knapp. He encouraged safety activists to contact him om 0823009280 in the event of serious problems.
  • We were introduced to the new station commander – Colonel Johnston. She has done much of her recent policing in the False Bay area.
  • The police station now has a solar backup, and is able to operate24/7.

The meeting discussed a number of matters: –

  • widespread complaints about the actions of desk staff who refuse to accept criminal charges laid by the public
  • an increase in gang activity with the Vlakkers coming to the fore in Sea Winds and the 26 & 28 gangs in all sectors.


Three crimes were reported for the month of September, 2023: –

  • East Lake Drive – House Break and Theft (HBT) at 0640 on 9.9.23;
  • East Lake Marina Pub & Bistro – HBT – between 2200 and 0200 on 14.9.23
  • East Lake Marina Café – Common Theft (TC) – unknown time on 20.9.2023.

All crimes were reported to Muizenberg SAPS

LPR Triggers

Many triggers but mostly of no use to the Marina. One vehicle (not from the Marina) recovered.

  • Cameras.

The Oudevlei LPR has been handed over to Philsec Systems for repairing water damage, corrosion at a quote of R2932.50.

It is currently being re-aligned by DB, Philsec and Navic.

There is at least one more camera (Eastlake LPR) requiring repair for water damage.

  • North Wall.

There was much fussing about the north wall collapse. I have attended on site with Robbie and a reputable Clear view erector.

His quote is R50848 for 31.78 m of 1.8m high Clearvue – antresite including all posts. The quote includes erection, posts in concrete footings.

Robbie and Connor have obtained other quotes so we can finalise this matter.

I have sent a detailed bundle to all members of Excom showing that we can proceed

STANDARDS – vacant

Surrounding COMMUNITIES’ Liaison – Lathif Gafoor

* Songezo promised earlier in the year that you would reconnect with me regarding the removal of the build up of debris from the canals later in the year when the erratic water levels in the canal has stabilised

* Abdullah Parker / Alistair Lee would recall the subject of the “piping” system which I raised at a ZPAAC meeting earlier in the year

* the system was devised and installed in the canal by a student from UCT in his masters project

* it was an extremely effective system in capturing the debris but the tubing has now collapsed and the system needs to be revisited. Alistair undertook to do the investigation in having the project reinstated. I trust that Alistair has had some success in having the system resuscitated

* Alistair also promised to look into the outsized bobcat which according to Songezo is rotting away unused. This was procured to clean the canals but could not be lowered into the canal as it was of the incorrect width

* Kyran at the last ZPAAC meeting you promised that the grass along the pathway in question would be cut within two weeks. It’s now past the sell by date. Could we have some feedback.

* will the boomgate be installed soon as the project is now long overdue

Treasury – Jonathan Walters

The expenses for the month were the standard monthly payments, though a new inverter is needed for the administrative office as the previous one is now dysfunctional, three quotes will be discussed and then the necessary unit can be purchased. 

I have met with the designated debt collector to ascertain the exact procedure for the collection process. My concern was not having sufficient notes on the reports to keep track of each case but he has gladly obliged to modify the reports accordingly for more clarity. 

A request was made to assess the maintenance expenses pertaining to gardening and security, to budget and evaluate. An updated income and expenditure statement for the recent month will be secured from the bookkeeper shortly and added to the archive for the website.

In the meanwhile, here is the information pertaining to the security and gardening that can be discussed in the meeting:

Average monthly gardening fixed expense for maintaining the gardens throughout the Marina = R11900. Two gardeners are recruited (under Friends of Park Island) and a further six through Staffa Hussein.

The average security monthly fixed expense is R14345, consisting of the Deep Blue subscription, plus the monitoring and maintenance of cameras through two companies, Navic and 5th Dimension.

The City reports back on latest ZPAAC meeting

Following the reopening of Zandvlei on Wednesday, 23 February 2022 and Zeekoevlei today, Friday 25 February 2022, the City of Cape Town met with representatives from the Protected Areas Advisory Committee (PAAC) and Friends of Zeekoevlei to discuss recent water quality data and the collective interventions needed to address chronic pollution in the waterbodies.

‘As a City, we wanted to meet with the users and surrounding communities of Zandvlei and Zeekoevlei to discuss the water quality results with them, and how we can work together for cleaner waterways. This is part of our commitment to transparency and building partnerships with communities. We appreciate the feedback during the meeting and look forward to more engagements in future.

‘The City’s Scientific Services Branch is ISO/IEC 17025 SANAS accredited, which is a standard global benchmark that ensures strict quality controls are in place for generating accurate and reliable water quality laboratory results.

‘Recent colilert E.coli tests undertaken at Zandvlei and Zeekoevlei by Scientific Services show comparable results with the tests undertaken by outside accredited laboratories.

‘In order to promote transparency on water quality results, and build an important trust relationship with all stakeholders, we will be communicating this on digital platforms in the near future.

‘We are all working towards a common goal of improving the water quality at Zandvlei and Zeekoevlei by reducing pollution,’ said Councillor Zahid Badroodien, the Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation.

See water quality results below for Zandvlei and Zeekoevlei Note: The results below were obtained using the colilert E.coli testing method, as this method was used for recent joint sampling to align with the tests of other laboratories. The City currently uses the colilert method for drinking water testing, and while fully proficient in conducting this testing in any context, is planning to obtain accreditation for its use in environmental waters as well.

Celebrating the Friends of Park Island

For many residents, one of the highlights of living in the Marina is the Park Island nature reserve. Responsibility for managing this priceless natural asset lies with the City of Cape Town (CoCT) via Kyran Wright and his team at the Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve (ZENR). But that’s only half the story.

In 1999, a group still known as the Friends of Park Island (FoPI) was set up to help facilitate the sanctuary’s rehabilitation in partnership with the CoCT and ZENR. Since then, FoPI has made a massive contribution to our community and its environment. For over two decades, Cherry Giljam, Pam Hepple and their support team have spent countless hours and endless energy helping to maintain, nurture and improve the island’s flora, fauna and infrastructure.

The least we could do in return is devote this edition of our newsletter to spotlighting the incredible work this unique community project does on behalf of visitors inside and outside the Marina.

The timing seems fitting. As Cherry Giljam explains, FoPI has ensured some tough challenges lately. “Between Christmas and New Year, our storeroom was broken into and our most valuable equipment stolen. Just this week, someone who clearly cannot read or disregards official signage tore down the security pedestrian gate leading onto the island!”

Despite these setbacks, work continues. In 2021, Ward 64 Councillor Aimee Kuhl dedicated her entire ward budget to ZENR. Among other items, this enabled the ZENR management to produce the much-needed new signage for the entire Zandvlei Estuary reserve, including Park Island. The FoPI had been waiting 15 years for this.

In addition, Park Island scored a contribution towards constructing the very necessary west shore boardwalk, which is still to be completed; and enclosing the designated free dog running area, which is ZENR’s solution to maintaining boundaries between the island’s indigenous wildlife and domestic animals.

Looking ahead, FoPI’s workload is only going to increase. As the CoCT’s resources become increasingly limited, the group has inherited many more commitments involving ongoing maintenance and project development These include employing its own labour with its own equipment/resources.

The steps between concept and completion are complex and FoPI must keep fundraising to complete its work. But as Cherry adds: “We will make it happen. Maybe not within the predicted timeframes, but we know we can count on your support, encouragement, comments and advice. Thanking you.”

How much is Park Island worth to you?

FoPI is appealing to you to contribute towards Park Island’s maintenance. Any contribution you make qualifies you to become a Friends of Park Island Insider. As such, you will receive a beautifully produced and written seasonal electronic newsletter, with updates on FoPI’s current activities and regular features on the plants and animals that inhabit the island.

You can make your donations using the following bank details:

Account name The Friends of Park Island
Bank Capitec
Branch code 470 010
Account number 1467 475 988
Reference Your name

Meanwhile, you can also find regular updates on the Friends of Park Island Facebook pages.

What exactly does FoPI do?

Different seasons involve different activities, but all year round the FoPI is undertakes the following tasks:

  • Designing and enhancing specific areas, such as the labyrinth, bird garden and entrance garden by adding appropriate plants each year
  • Maintaining the island’s variable garden/tree areas
  • Planting out new areas, introducing new species
  • Pruning, trimming dead wood and weed
  • Hand-watering vulnerable plants until they are established
  • Eradicating alien vegetation
  • Maintaining pathways by strimming and cutting back encroaching vegetation while covering pathways with protective vegetative material to deter mole activity and retain a stable walking surface. Chipping is the group’s preferred surface, but it is expensive and difficult to obtain.
  • Buying and maintaining necessary equipment, including protective clothing and food/drink for the maintenance team
  • Maintaining built infrastructure such as the storeroom, benches, boardwalks, pedestrian bridges, bird hide etc., with occasional assistance from ZENR
  • Maintaining the noticeboard and Facebook page, creating and managing seasonal content
  • Picking up litter by hand and bagging it before asking ZENR to remove the bags
  • Additional litter clearing, including organising an annual community clean-up event.

FoPI also Initiates projects designed to enhance the island. This work involves assessing what new vegetation/infrastructure would benefit the island’s users, drawing up proposals/quotes and then applying for the necessary funding. If FoPI is fortunate enough to be awarded the finance, it then manages the project with the knowledge, agreement and some assistance from ZENR.

To date, the Rowland and Leta Hill Trust has financed all FoPI’s infrastructure projects, including the pedestrian bridges, the bird hide, the boardwalks and, in 2013, the erosion hardening project along the western shore.

Since 1999, most of the plants we enjoy on Park Island have been purchased and, very often, personally planted by a member of our community. Says Cherry: “I think you will agree that there can be few better investments that will hopefully be respected and enjoyed for generations to come. A lasting legacy!”

Water, water everywhere…

The very hot, dry weather we are currently experiencing has raised an important question: Without fresh water, how do animals survive on Park Island?

Animals commonly found on Park Island include Cape Grysbok, Cape Porcupine, Cape Mole-rat, Grey Mongoose, Water Mongoose and the Angulate Tortoise. All these prefer the type of Strandveld vegetation FoPI has planted on the island, close to the coast where plant communities are more palatable and less likely to burn than mountain fynbos.

Eggs or young are born underground or in dense brush cover. The vegetation, including a wide selection of bulbs, contain sufficient moisture to sustain them, although they will enjoy the occasional rain shower or coastal misty morning.

Tortoises will seldom drink from a stream and will only dispose of bodily fluids when they can be certain of replacing them. However, their survival strategy of urinating when picked up could lead to their death if they are unable to replenish that lost fluid. Many animals also rely on fish, carrion, eggs and so on, which also contain moisture. The first rain of the season is also welcomed by most animals.

Please note: many bird species and the Grey Mongoose do enjoy fresh water, so please keep your garden bird bath filled up.

Help! There’s an otter at the end of the jetty

The Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensi)has long been a Zandvlei resident.

In the days of the Boardsail Inn, the family who managed and lived at the venue reported that an otter family had set up a coven in the densely vegetated spit of land that separated their pool of water from the estuary mouth.

Many Marina residents also have their own otter tales to tell. “When we had dogs, we were repeatedly visited by an otter family comprising mum, dad, two teenagers and two pups, who would taunt our dogs before marking their territory on our lawn,” recalls Cherry. “When teenage otters are expelled to go and fend for themselves, they are often seen in and around the Marina in the daylight, clearly looking for new territory and possibly a mate! Their territory can range from the beach 5km upstream to estuaries, rivers and streams.”

In 2012, Nicola Okes, a PhD student at UCT, studied the spatial ecology and pollution burden of Cape Clawless Otters in the Cape Peninsula. After three years, she published and presented her incredible research. Her findings are too long to relate here, but these beautiful creatures have learned to adapt to live in an increasingly urban environment although pollution and dwindling food sources compromise their existence. As Cherry says: “Their main meal is crab, and if you check the vast number of juvenile crabs being scooped up in the algae by the Kingfisher right now, you have to wonder what their diet will now comprise of.”

Out of interest, all Nicola’s evidence showed that otters see dogs – especially dark-coloured dogs that are the same size as them – as competition for territory. They either harass the dogs and/or leave their ‘calling card’ in the form of a midden. Otters have also been known to attack dogs, but only when provoked.

They usually traverse our waterways in the early hours of the morning but are seldom seen during the day, so a daylight otter sighting is a rare treat.

  • Please report any otter sightings to Kyran Wright at the ZENR.

A joint view on what’s happening with the vlei

Following consultations, meetings and discussions with the experts, David Rogers and David Bristow (Zandvlei Trust) and Nick Bode (Marina da Gama Association) highlight concerns, issues and also strong signs of new hope for the future of Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve.

Sewerage, weed build-ups and water quality and urban renewal projects were high on the agenda at the latest meeting of the Zandvlei Protected Areas Advisory Committee (ZPAAC), held on 26 January at the Zandvlei Lookout.

The meeting was well attended by key stakeholder groups around Zandvlei, including the Marina Da Gama Association, Zandvlei Trust, Peninsula Canoe Club, Yacht Club, Sea Cadets, Friends of Park Island and the Zandvlei Recreational Anglers’ Association, along with conservation and biological specialists, who have all been meeting monthly since September 2021 to advise the City of Cape Town (CoCT) on matters pertaining to the nature reserve.

Community and transparency was said to be not up to standard generally and this body and its work are now getting up to speed and we hope to keep you informed of these meetings which will be held monthly due to the urgency of the situation.

Photo credit: Wilbur McIlmoyle

A new man in the hot seat

The good news is that the Mayor has escalated waterways, including Zandvlei, as priorities. Also, there was a regular attendee, our ward councillor Amy Kuhl, who often brings a broad perspective on things ‘political’. Unfortunately absent was the new mayoral committee on waterways chairperson, Alex Landsdowne, the man now at the centre of this great big $#!& storm that has many causes upstream, who was scheduled to update us on his work. We hope to be able to engage with him as soon as he is feeling better (get well soon, Alex).

CoCT reported that it is about to appoint various consultants to reinvigorate the 2016 Source to Sea River Corridors and Liveable Urban Wetland initiatives, along with the River Ambassadors and the Adopt a River programmes that lost momentum during the COVID lockdown. Of these projects, the Liveable Urban Waterways Project is extremely relevant and the Westlake, Sand and Keysers Rivers are under the spotlight. The concept is to target pollution culprits particularly in industrial areas, rewild the rivers as far as possible, and also create better spaces for people to enjoy. This will, in turn, enhance the water connections between communities as well as the quality and the flow of water into the Zandvlei Estuary. We are eager to bring people news about these developments and urged the CoCT to keep us informed as far as possible on progress and also gain input from the specialists in the room.

Hats off to Andy

One council employee who deserves special mention here is Andy Taylor, the man responsible for relaying and/or relining the entire sewerage pipe system in the southern peninsula. It’s a hard, tricky and as you can imagine, very dirty job. So, whenever you flush your loo, just give him a thought. The sewage system is old, in some placed dilapidated, and pushed over the edge by human settlement in the catchment over the past few decades. In more recent years it has also been subjected to astonishing abuse and, rumour has it, political sabotage.

E. coli levels down

More good news reported by Kyran Wright of Cape Nature was that E coli levels are much improved in the vlei – but for two major breakdowns during December, one of which remains a mystery. If the trend continues, the vlei could well be opened for recreational use in the next few weeks. 

Weed and algae

The weed infestation which has occurred over the past few months was also a source of concern and brings new challenges. The CoCT has budgeted for weekly drone flights to monitor algal growth and blooms in the waterways for the next two months. This will help to inform the priority areas for clearing by the weed harvester. The CoCT’s teams are also analysing the new strains of algae that have not been seen previously in the vlei. The main causes of the current weed explosion are, as is obvious, sewage spills, but also nutrient flows coming in from the two golf courses upstream at Westlake and Steenberg, suburban gardens (where do you think all the fertilisers and pool backwashing ends up?), and quite possibly the Constantia wine farms.

Our ailing weed harvester

Our very tired and ageing Kingfisher weed harvester has been a source of great concern over many years. Having got a life-saving overhaul and then solving a red-tape issue, it has struggled to operate at full capacity this week due to the recent strong winds. However, it is now operating in the northern canals and has been instructed to focus most of its time in the Uitsig canals this week. Of course, everyone and their dog has an opinion about how it should be doing its job, without ever having tried to operate this noisy, shaking and ancient beast. For two weeks this month, reserve manager Kyran Wright had to take over the controls when the regular operator had to isolate due to a COVID contact. Kyran says his hands and arms have still not recovered, so go ahead and volunteer to give it a try if you are feeling brave and foolish!

The construction of the first of two new weed harvesters is on track to be completed and delivered by June 2022. They are to be run, maintained and operated by third party contractors so, hopefully, there will not be the current maintenance delays with so many layers of government approval required for even the smallest spare part.

Two boat crews with six people each will be hired by the CoCT to mop up alga in areas the weed harvester can’t get to. The contract will hopefully be finalised next month. If there is a pile-up of harvested algae nearby, please bear with us as we try to tackle this never-seen-before infestation.

Estuary mouth management

The mouth is scheduled to be opened at the next spring tide as it’s a great high tide with a height of 1,95m. This will lead to increased salinity that will hopefully slow down some of the worst weed growth. Also, the resultant increased water depth around our houses, by around 20cm, will also allow for greater water circulation, which also helps control the weed-algae infestation*. Recent oxygen and salinity readings are all within an acceptable range and continue to be regularly sampled. Night/early morning oxygen sampling will also be initiated to account for the variable respiration rates of algae.

* For those not aware, the mouth is opened in summer to allow the inflow of sea water, and in winter to allow the outflow of fresh rainwater in an attempt to maintain regular water levels and salinity. The vlei is an artificial lake that was created early in the 20th century – along with Zeekoevlei – to facilitate recreation when rowing was the big thing. Under natural conditions, the vlei (estuary) would have run completely dry in summer. Hence its name Zandvlei. That is also why it needs to intensively managed.

Zandvlei Trust

The Zandvlei Trust, a volunteer group of environmentally concerned residents from all around the vlei, has employed staff to clean up nets, the water’s edge and the Sand River mouth canal. The trust has taken over the tasks that were previously managed by Mike Ryder and also expanded to other areas of the vlei. To be more inclusive, regular monthly litter ‘chicken parades’ are being co-ordinated by the Trust: join them if you can on the first Saturday of every month, meeting at Thesen’s Bridge near Axminster Road on Zandlvei at 9.30am. Bring something to drink, wellies if you have them, and maybe a fork, rake or braai tongs. The Trust will provide bags.

What’s up with the birds?

A water bird census was conducted last week and we look forward to the results. Kyran pointed out that waterfowl are not a particularly good indicator of water quality and numerous species even prefer polluted waterways. For example, some of the best birding in South Africa happens at sewerage works. He believes that our lack of waterfowl is because they are being impacted by the lack of pondweed, which is a primary food source. The big numbers and variety we used to enjoy have moved to other waterbodies and parts of the vlei. Kyran said that they counted more than 300 coots around the Sand River mouth. He believes that this is a wind shielded area and also close to a large pondweed stand. Answering the concerns of some residents, he pointed out that the reason some birds, such as weavers, appear to have abandoned their nests is that it’s the end of their breeding season.

Cleaning up the greater vlei area might at times feel like trying to push water uphill with a rake, but we have to tackle one issue at a time. Many small steps will – with luck, hope and hard work – lead to solutions and a happy, clean water environment.

City visit: a step towards filling the info gap

Persistent lobbying over many months by the MDGA paid off this week when a high-level delegation of key decision-makers from the City of Cape Town (CoCT) met with members of the MDGA ExCom in the Marina to map the way out of our continuing water crisis.

Lead by Cllr Zahid Badroodien, the newly elected Mayoral Committee member for Water and Sanitation, the 11-strong delegation also included the heads of Reticulation, Pump Stations and Cape Nature.

While emphasising that the MDGA had called the meeting in the spirit of constructive engagement, Richard Midgley, the MDGA ExCom’s Chairman, was forthright in expressing residents’ concerns: “The algae is out of control, our waterways have now been closed for over seven months and we are in a worse position than we were a year ago.”

Point made: Pierre Maritz (left) discusses pump station maintenance with Cllr Zahid Badroodien (centre) and Richard Midgley

“We are not talking here about a public access issue,” continued Richard. “This is a real problem for residents around Zandlvei, particularly in the Marina. The waterways crisis impacts on our members’ lifestyles; makes them question their reasons for choosing to buy and live here; and, worst of all, the situation dramatically affects the value of their properties.”

While acknowledging the wider service delivery challenges facing the CoCT, Richard also pointed out that the MDGA is virtually powerless when it comes to keeping the Marina’s 1,352 households fully informed about what is happening on Zandvlei. “On our members’ behalf, we have a single purpose for calling this meeting: to understand the causes underlying the sewerage spills and to learn how the CoCT plans to remedy the situation so that our waterways can be reopened and kept clean and safe. A lack of information simply exacerbates residents’ frustrations.”

In the same co-operative spirit, members of the CoCT delegation took turns to outline the measures that their departments are currently taking to reinforce and maintain Cape Town’s water and sanitation infrastructure – and stop sewerage from entering Zandlveli.  

Among other positives, all sewerage lines in Muizenberg, Constantia, Bergvliet, Meadowridge and Tokai have now been relined and the CoCT is currently assessing quotes from contractors to finish cleaning lines in Lavender Hill and Seawinds. Relining has been instrumental in eliminating sand from the sewerage system, preventing pump station failures and damage. All CoCT’s pump stations are also being retrofitted with grids to prevent damage while manholes are being fitted with covers to prevent illegal dumping. Issues with pump station telemetrics have also been resolved. In addition, Pierre Maritz, Manager, Reticulation, committed to forwarding service/maintenance records for all 10 pump stations in the Marina to the MDGA office. Overall, the CoCT has committed a significant capital budget to pump station upgrades and pipe replacements for this financial year and most of this budget has been allocated to Zandvlei.

Potentially, the most important action arising from the meeting was a commitment to setting up a dedicated technical sub-committee to address the ongoing sewerage spills into Zandvlei and the extremely high nutrient load that is feeding the current algae blooms. Not a silver bullet or magic wand, perhaps, But certainly a step in the right direction.

Commenting on this advance, Richard Midgley said: “Regular meetings with the City’s most technically skilled decision-makers will go a long way to applying pressure on the authorities to deal decisively with the problems that we currently face.

“We fervently hope that the spirit of partnership we took away from the meeting will lead to effective long-term solutions for Marina residents, our neighbouring communities and the precious environment that we share.”

“Meanwhile,” added Richard, “on behalf of Marina residents, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to all members of the CoCT delegation for taking the time to hear our concerns and commit to finding solutions.”

The MDGA will continue to persist in its efforts towards ongoing constructive and productive engagements with CoCT on behalf of all Marina residents.

CoCT delegation in full

Cllr Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation; Abdulla Parker, Manager, Stormwater and Sustainability; Pierre Maritz, Manager, Reticulation; Abongile Duna, Manager, Pump Stations; Sigqibo Nogaya, Head, Reticulation Wastewater Conveyancing; Andrew Taylor, Sewer Engineer, Water and Sanitation Department; Alistair Lee, Engineering Hydrologist, Project Manager; Dalton Gibbs, Regional Manager South, Nature Conservation; Kyran Wright, Manager, Zandvleie Estuary Nature Reserve; Elethu Zembe, Catchment Planner; and City of Cape Town’s Odwa Ndesi.