Iconic huts may go ... but we'll still have the postcards
Time has caught up with Muizenberg's beach huts, some of which might disappear owing to 'social evils'
They seemed like a good idea at the time. But times have changed for Muizenberg's iconic multicoloured beach huts, many of which look set to be demolished to prevent criminal activity.
The City of Cape Town confirmed on Wednesday it is considering removing as many as 17 of the 38 huts that have inspired numerous postcards since they were introduced more than a century ago.
Three derelict huts close to the mouth of the Zandvlei river have already been removed following complaints they were harbouring “social evils”, including drug-dealing and prostitution.
“We are considering a proposal to remove more of the huts close to the river mouth, as a result of ongoing vandalism, illegal activities and general state of disrepair,” said mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.“While the city recognises that the beach huts have value and are an attractive feature of the beach, we cannot ignore the ongoing vandalism and cost to the city. Additional security has been hired to patrol the area and, in future, the huts will form part of the deployment footprint of the city’s facility protection officer initiative,” Smith said in response to Times Select queries.Initially intended as a convenient place to change into swimwear, the huts have increasingly become a liability – and a costly one. A repair job for all 38 existing huts would cost almost R900,000, according to a report submitted to the council late last year.
The report recommended some of the huts be demolished, with leftover materials used to maintain the others.While some residents have petitioned to save all the beach huts, the council's demolition plan enjoys the support of the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society. Vice-chairman Chris Taylor said the vandalised huts had become an eyesore.
“They are a feature of Muizenberg, just like at St James [tidal pool] – people love them, but only if they are bright and clean,” Taylor said. “We have more than we need. We want them to be functional and properly maintained.”
The huts first appeared in the late 19th century with the arrival of rail transport which transformed Muizenberg into one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. The earliest hut varieties had wheels and bathers used their horses to pull them into the water. At one stage there were so many – all privately owned and built – that they blocked easy access to the beach. They were subsequently bought by the city council.