About The Township - Zwelihle

The community called Zwelihle is a large sprawling township that mushroomed after the dawn of the democratic South Africa in 1994. It is situated on the outskirts of Hermanus, approximately 120 km south east of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa.
In Xhosa (the native Language), Zwelihle means beautiful place. It comprises of 13 suburbs: Six informal settlements – Asazani, Camp Site, Mandela Square, Tsepe-Tsepe, Wag –‘n- Bietjie and Ziphunzana, and seven formal settlements Ezinini, Hostels, Kwasa- Kwasa, Old Location, Peach House, Thambo Square and White City.

Its population is 35,000 and constantly growing at a rate of 15 new people per day. The average household size is 4.3 people. 41% of the population is under 18 years, of which 75% are under 13years.
For the more fortunate, there are 2,550 permanent homes build by the government. These are one storey, concrete structures, with kitchen/sitting room, bathroom and one or two bedrooms. Electricity, water and sewage system are provided in these houses. These houses are home to 8,400 people.

However, 70% of the population in Zwelihle live in shacks, made of twenty four galvanised metal sheets, held together around twelve wooden posts. These one room informal dwellings are devoid of basic infrastructures – no running water, toilets etc.  There is no organised site for shacks- they are built wherever there is a free space, often very close together. A fenced in transit camp provides water and ablution services for these people. All water for consumption, cooking or washing has to be manually carried back to the shacks. The majority of shack dwellers tap into the electricity grid by running illegal wires from the nearest electricity pole - this is dangerous for all concerned and the cause of many fires in the township.



Unhygienic conditions prevail for families that live in the shacks owing to the lack of ablution facilities, the lack of an effective rubbish removal service and a constantly polluted stream. During the winter rainy season – June to October- the area becomes very swampy. Very few shacks have a dry concrete floor, so the rainy season makes everything within the shack damp. These conditions, together with poor nutrition, provide the ideal breeding ground for many infections, particularly respiratory illnesses which can prove fatal for those whose health is already compromised with HIV/AIDS


Unemployment statistics are alarmingly high (only 29 % of the adult population have jobs) and the financial and social consequences of no income are a huge concern. Boredom is obvious and remains largely unaddressed. Large-scale illiteracy amongst adults, as well as their inability to converse in either English or Africans, seriously hampers their efforts to find employment and provide an income for their family. Most people who do have employment, travel the 5 km into Hermanus by foot or bus, and may work up to 12 hours, six days per week, often leaving very young children to fend for themselves during these hours.


R3000 or more ( €280)

34.3 %

R1200-R3000 ( €112- €280)


R 780- R1200 (€73 - €112)


R 0 – R 780  €0 - € 73)

3.3 %

No Income

The South African Government have set a poverty line of R1400 per month.
Seven out of every ten households in Zwelihle have incomes below that level.


In Zwelihle, one in every two people is either HIV positive or has full blown AIDS. The people that have been positively tested for HIV and are willing to take the Anti retroviral drugs (ARVs) attend the local clinic where a medical sister/ doctor monitor their disease status. There is a strict protocol. The ARVs are supplied free of charge when the CD4+ T cell count drops to a certain level.
There is often a lack of understanding that treatment with ARVs is a life long process. The patient must continue regularly taking the medicine whether they feel ill or not in order to prevent the HIV infection worsening. Often the treatment regime is stopped when the patient feels better and has to be re- initiated several months later –with much lower success rate.

For many years, the burden of care and support has fallen heavily on the shoulders of impoverished local communities where sick family members return when they can no longer work or care for them. Community based care has been promoted as the best option as it would be impossible to care properly for thousands of people dying from AIDS in public hospitals. However, it is dangerous to assume that communities have limitless resilience and capacity to care for the dying people and provide for those they leave behind. There is acute need for social protection and interventions to support the most vulnerable communities and households affected by this epidemic.