Prayer time causes angst

2016-10-04 06:00
Heathfield madrassa has community members up in arms again as they are worried that the building is being used as a mosque and that it will create traffic problems for them.  PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

Heathfield madrassa has community members up in arms again as they are worried that the building is being used as a mosque and that it will create traffic problems for them. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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After fears that a school would become a place of worship, residents are now “living thier worst nightmare”.

Residents in Elfindale, Heathfield, Punts Estate, Diep River and surroundings say over a decade ago they opposed the construction of a madrassa fearing that in the long run it will be turned into a mosque.

The Heathfield Madrassa, situated on erf 160741 in Chadwin Road, has now become “a cause of concern”.

Residents’ fear has turned into a reality as the madrassa is now being used by some in the community as a place of worship. It is alleged that it opened to the community members two weeks ago.

In the application to the City of Cape Town it was clearly stated that the madrassa is a school. It was also allowed to have a prayer room there as it was part of the madrassa curriculum. Following a meeting the Princess Civic Association clarified in a letter that the madrassa will be a place of learning and the learning entails praying as part of the curriculum for learners.

Vanessa Slater, a frustrated resident, says she vividly remembers how residents were against the madrassa in the first place.

“I have been in this area for over 20 years and there were petitions going around rejecting the madrassa because we just knew that it will be turned into a mosque. The problem is how was the madrassa even approved and built when so many people were against it? The mosque is very bad. It causes an influx of everything – cars and people – into our area. We have one entrance and exit to this area and having to have people drive in for the prayer time will only make it worse. Now people are parking right in front of my house,” she says.

When residents were told that a madrassa was going to be built, they were of the view that it was a mosque and will be used as a mosque and they objected. Back in 2002 a public meeting had to be called to settle the matter and get clarity on what a madrassa was.

Jan Burger, chairperson of the Princess Vlei Civic Association, says the Civic had no objection for a madrassa, but they strongly objected to having a place of worship.

“This issue had the community up in arms. To them a madrassa was a mosque and their concerns were that there will be noise pollution, parking problems as well as too many cars, especially when it’s time for prayer. We had to call a public meeting and it was explained that a madrassa is a school and the property will be used as such by a member of Heathfield Madrassa Society. The school was going to have a prayer room which was to be used by learners as this is part of their curriculum. We were told it was not a mosque and we agreed to have a school. All the documents that the Civic received stated there will be no mosque. Now it came as a shock to us when we got complaints that the place was being used as a mosque. We have no knowledge of this,” he says.

Adam Harnekers from the Heathfield Madrassa Society denies the community’s allegations.

“There is no traffic problem. We have two people on patrol to ensure that people who come for prayer park properly and obey all road rules. The madrassa was built for learners, but we can’t stop the community from using this facility because it was built by them and it’s also a (community) centre.

“We pray five times a day and this is the place that people can use – it’s for the whole community. There is no major traffic problem. The issue is on a Friday when people break the rules, but we have measures in place to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he says.

Ward councillor Kevin Southgate says while doing his routine ward inspection he noticed the circular opening in the roof and immediately contacted the Princess Vlei Civic to alert them.

“They informed me that they had a public meeting at the time when the first plans were discussed and they were assured that the place would not be a mosque but a madrassa including a prayer room. When I drove by last week the street was filled with cars. There was a notice posted on the street pole with a directional arrow clearly indicating the way to the ‘Masjied’ which in my understanding is another word for mosque. I have asked the building inspector to investigate the matter and he informed me that the construction was in accordance with the approved plans. I have received numerous complaints from people who feel aggrieved at what is happening. I have directed these concerns to the relevant department for investigation and feedback.”

According to the Princess Vlei Civic they supported the project based on the undertaking that it was not going to be a mosque and now feel they were misled, Southgate says.

“Residents have a right to raise their concerns especially since what they see is not what they originally agreed to.”
The City of Cape Town’s Planning and Building Development Department is looking into this matter and, on clarity, will provide an appropriate response.

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