The Cape Coast connects economically critical railways, roads and harbours with the region’s economic engine room in the city centre. Private residential development sits alongside ‘coastal public property’ which is owned or managed by the government. There are ecologically fragile river mouths and dune fields, some of which are set aside for conservation, while others are mined for sand or locked down with cement or alien vegetation in an attempt to stabilise them for further development.
Commercial opportunities for property developers, and individual demand for coastal homes, make demand on the coast competitive. Property values are usually higher along the coast, which pushes up the rates, making it a significant potential source of revenue for the City, so granting development rights is an attractive proposition.
The economic, recreational and natural value of the coast is huge. With this comes many vested interests. Balancing the management of the coast – in terms of development, access and conservation of natural systems – is no simple task.
Historically, black, coloured and Indian South Africans were excluded from using certain beaches and pools, or even from owning property on many stretches of this coastline, while whites have enjoyed this privilege and financial gain. This only compounds the complexity of any decisions about who gets to use which sections of the coastlines now, and how much should be kept undisturbed or set aside for conservation.