Coffee Bay is a beautiful rural village nestled on the coast of the former Transkei, South Africa. It is beautiful, but not without serious social problems. People’s lives are dominated by poverty, hardship and ill-health.

The area around Coffee Bay is an area rich in natural resources with fertile lands and abundant seas, where traditional Xhosa rondavels dot the rolling hills and smiling faces welcome the many visitors who come to the area.

Coffee Bay, Community development
The picturesque Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay is part of the O.R Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. The municipality stretches along the Wild Coast for some 160km from Kei Mouth in the south to Port Edward in the north – and inland for almost 100km. The region, including Coffee Bay, boasts beautiful indigenous fauna and flora, and is home to many unique endemic species in the (as yet) unspoilt rolling green hills.

The municipality also encompasses most of the former “Republic of Transkei”, once an ‘independent’ homeland during the apartheid years. As one of two territories set aside for the Xhosa people, the Transkei was little more than a puppet state controlled by the apartheid government. The area suffered from a lack of economic and social investment resulting in a lack of opportunities, poor infrastructure and other social and environmental problems associated with poverty.

The Transkei (as it was then, and is still known as) was the birthplace of prominent leaders of the apartheid liberation movement of South Africa, including Nelson Mandela and Oliver Reginald Tambo.

Coffee Bay is a small community of about 600 people, 80km from Mthatha, the region’s biggest town. Coffee Bay falls within the King Sabata Dalindyebo (KSD) district of the O.R Tambo District Municipality.

More about the area

While stats are rarely descriptive, the stats of the region to which Coffee Bay belongs tells a tragic story in which communities’ lives are dominated by poverty, hardship and ill-health.

Within O. R Tambo municipality:

  • 91% have no access to electricity
  • 77% are unemployed
  • 75% have no access to running water
  • 64.6% live in poverty
  • 57.8% are illiterate
  • 29% are living with HIV

Within KSD district:

  • 93.3% have no formal sanitation services
  • 88% live below the poverty line
  • 78.3% have no access to standard water supply
  • 71.5% of the economically active population is unemployed

Challenges identified by the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development:

  • Food security – malnutrition
  • High unemployment levels
  • Infrastructure backlogs
  • Housing shortage
  • Low levels of education
  • Low levels of health facilities
  • Environmental degradation

Other issues observed within the community:

  • Reliant on social grants
  • Young males leave the area to work in the mines – the recession is affecting this employment and therefore money coming to families in the area
  • Reliance on odd jobs
  • Wood and paraffin lamps are predominantly used for cooking and light
  • No refuse disposal
  • Deliberate policy of under investment during apartheid which continues to have economic, health and social ramifications at every level
  • Global “credit crunch” recession affecting charity donations and tourism numbers
  • Expectations of existing government schools in the area are very low and many adults in the community are illiterate impacting on the after school help children get from their parents
  • High AIDS prevalence resulting in increasing numbers of orphans
  • Poor infrastructure resulting in water shortages, sporadic and unpredictable electricity supply, poor driving conditions into Coffee Bay, loss of cell network coverage and limited internet access
  • Apart from tourism outlets and businesses, the village of Coffee Bay is not yet connected to the electricity supply impacting on the ability of children and adults to study in the home

The traditional Xhosa lifestyle in Coffee Bay is one of the aspects that draw tourists to the area. However collecting water, wood and cooking on open fires traditionally undertaken by women and children of the household creates a lot of time-consuming and heavy work, again impacting on the time children can spend learning in the home.

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