Community butts heads over proposed mall

2016-02-17 06:00
Photo: Jyothi laldas More than 300 residents were part of the march.

Photo: Jyothi laldas More than 300 residents were part of the march.

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A GROUP of more than 300 “concern citizens” marched through the KwaDukuza CBD on Thursday morning opposing what they call a “racially segregated ratepayers association”.

The marchers were armed with placards denoting their unhappiness.

They claim that the recently formed KwaDukuza Ratepayer’s and Civic Association interim committee is opposing the construction of a mall and civic precinct, on the land where the current sporting facilities lie, for reasons that do not extend to the entire community. They further believe that a certain sector of society is taking precedence over others.

The marchers are for the construction of the mall as they believe it will create employment for the people of the town. A memorandum was handed over to the KwaDukuza Municipality and was accepted by deputy mayor Dolly Govender, who said she would present the document to council. She said they would respond only once council has discussed the document.

The memorandum stated that the group demands more equitable and non-discriminating treatment of all citizens of the region.

It further stated: “We are seriously concerned about the racist attitude of the Muslim businessmen in this town who have set up an illegitimate ratepayers’ association which excludes the majority of the citizens of the town.

“We are dismayed that the illegitimate ratepayers association is allowed to entrench its own selfish objectives without taking into account the needs, problems and issues affecting the majority of our citizens. We therefore demand to be included in this ratepayers’ association and its executive committee.”

Another issue raised in the memorandum was the belief that the KwaDukuza Municipality “appears to endorse this discriminatory attitude of the Muslim businessmen in that it has not publically criticised or commented on this association”.

The group demanded that the municipality institute immediate action against “these people and their sinister actions in terms of the constitutional principles of our nation”.

They also stated: “If these issues of segregation and racism by the Muslim community continues, we will not hesitate to unleash the consumer power of the disadvantaged community by boycotting every one of their businesses.”

In response to the march, the KwaDukuza Ratepayers and Civic Association interim committee held a press briefing on Monday.

Responding to the allegations made by the concerned citizens group, interim chairperson Haroon Mohammedy said they are aware that the association is currently not fully representative of the community, however, they are working on expanding their membership through public meetings and the official launch of the association.

“We are only an interim committee and furthermore we have advertised our meetings inviting the community to attend on a few occasions, those who attended were included in the association. No one has been deliberately excluded.”

He further stated that the accusation of the committee being illegitimate and solely Muslim is completely incorrect.

“This is factually incorrect. The committee, which was elected at a public meeting, is made up of 11 members and only four of them, including myself are Muslim. We were led to believe this march was to demand jobs, but it turned out that it targeted a sector in society and they make serious allegations that boarder on inciting racial violence. We are considering laying a charge with the SAPS and the Human Rights Commission.”

He added that people cannot demand to be part of the association. “We will follow a democratic process according to our constitution which will be presented to the community shortly, and this is how members will be elected. We intend to have representatives from all 27 wards of KwaDukuza once the association is launched and this will include all sectors of the community.”

Mohammedy further stated that two of the organisers of the march Xolani Mbele and Noxolo Magwaza had met with him previously expressing their interest in joining the association. “I did tell them that they would be invited to our next meeting, which is next Wednesday. They did express concern that the association was not fully representative of the community but gave no indication that they were against the association entirely.”

Speaking about the objection to the mall construction, Mohammedy said they object to the development of a mall and civic precinct on the land where the sporting facilities lie.

“We believe that the correct procedures and process were not followed and proper public participation was not undertaken regarding this construction of a mall. We are not opposed to development. We do however, have a problem with municipal land that already has a purpose being used for the development.

“The sporting facilities are going to be decentralised and we feel that the process for this was flawed. The facilities do not belong to the sporting associations alone, it is a community resource and as such the entire community should have been consulted before a decision was taken to move it. We find that consulting only the sporting administrators was not fair to the public.”

He added that since the KwaDukuza Municipality will be renting the civic precinct it will be a large added burden on ratepayers.

In a statement, the Stanger Muslim Association (SMA) expressed dismay at the march.

“Such actions are naive, irresponsible and unwarranted. We believe that such baseless and defamatory accusations are unacceptable, in general and constitutionally, and undeserving of our attention and response were it not for the dangerous repercussions of such unfounded accusations.

“The SMA has also ascertained that the march was illegal having not received the necessary municipal approvals. We call on our honourable Mayor Ricardo Mthembu to hold accountable those responsible for the march and to take the necessary steps to prevent such uncorroborated and libellous actions in the future.”

KwaDukuza mayor Riccardo Mthembu said the municipality had no problem with the ratepayers association. He said that he is aware that the association is against the development of the mall however, they will be engaged by council to find an amicable solution. A report back meeting of the KwaDukuza Ratepayers and Civic Association interim committee will be held at the KwaDukuza Town Hall on Wednesday, 24 February commencing at 5.30pm. The community is invited to attend.

We are not opposed to development. We do however, have a problem with municipal land that already has a purpose being used for the development.

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