Cape Town's 'dangerous & unsightly' coastal rock cairns to be dismantled

Cape Town rock 'sculptor' Sipho Njengezi says he will keep stacking rocks, even if they topple over.
Cape Town rock 'sculptor' Sipho Njengezi says he will keep stacking rocks, even if they topple over.
Image: BOBBY JORDAN

Rock cairns are unsightly and a danger to society, and will be destroyed, Cape Town officials confirmed on Tuesday.

The city was responding to the official toppling of a popular rock cairn "garden" adjoining Dalebrook Tidal Pool in Kalk Bay on Monday morning, which prompted a public outcry. The cairns, or rock stacks, are the work of numerous local residents and have proved popular with seaside visitors, particularly during Covid-19 lockdown. Some of them stand about 2m high, while most are smaller.

One resident said he created them as a peaceful protest against “hard lockdown”.

However, Marian Nieuwoudt, Cape Town's head of spatial planning and environment, said the towers posed a danger to people, especially children. She confirmed that city officials had dismantled the cairns.

“City officials visited the Dalebrook Tidal Pool and asked the cairn builders to stop the activity,” Nieuwoudt said in response to TimesLIVE queries. “The builders refused and/or ignored the official’s request. The officials then dismantled the rock cairns.”

She said the Dalebrook cairns had “proliferated in number beyond any reasonable amount”.  

“We have an incident of a child’s foot being broken by a falling rock from a rock cairn,” Nieuwoudt said.

In addition, scientific research had found rock cairns affected biodiversity and caused an ecological disturbance. They also caused visual pollution and contravened the newly approved coastal bylaw, Nieuwoudt said.

“We also want to prevent this becoming a common occurrence along our coastline,” she said. “Signs will go up in due course and the city will continue to engage with those who are building the cairns.”

Visitors admire rock cairns at Dalebrook Tidal Pool in Kalk Bay
Visitors admire rock cairns at Dalebrook Tidal Pool in Kalk Bay
Image: BOBBY JORDAN

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