Zille surprise visit puts Gugulethu protests on hold

2017-05-11 18:13
Some Tambo Square Informal Settlement residents dismantled their shacks to make way for upgrades, but work was stopped by protests from neighbouring residents. (Mandla Mnyakama, GroundUp)

Some Tambo Square Informal Settlement residents dismantled their shacks to make way for upgrades, but work was stopped by protests from neighbouring residents. (Mandla Mnyakama, GroundUp)

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Cape Town - Protests that saw parts of Gugulethu cordoned off with burning barricades were suspended after a surprise late-night visit by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

“We feel we are being taken seriously now,” community leader Mandla Navelase said on Thursday.

He said Zille arrived with a bodyguard around 21:00 and stayed until 23:00 to hear what their issues were. Her visit was at the request of residents, who had agreed that the Vukukhanye Primary School would reopen.

“The children have missed too much school already and we agreed the children should not have to sacrifice their education to the current dispute,” she said in response to emailed questions.

There was no clarity on whether the school had been reopened. The department of education said no pupils arrived, and Navelase said the gates were open again.

Children who went to schools and creches outside the area had been falling behind because burning barricades prevented vehicles from going in or out.

More meetings

Zille confirmed there would be follow-up meetings.

“Yes, I think it is possible to find a creative solution, and the city and province are in discussion to explore the possibility.”

She faces a disciplinary inquiry by the DA, the party she once led, over her controversial tweets in which she stated that the legacy of colonialism was not only negative.

The protests came after plans for a long-awaited construction of community facilities were shelved in favour of upgrading an informal settlement on the site of planned community hall, library and satellite police station, apparently without consultation.

When the ANC governed the province, it promised that community facilities would be built in the area. After the DA took over in 2009, residents were promised houses instead.

Navelase said the residents who were protesting were not against housing but were upset that they had not been consulted about the change of plan.

They were battling to get the finer details about the new developments, such as who would get the houses, and when they would get their library and satellite police station.

The site in question, in Gugulethu, was zoned for “community institutions” in the 1990s. It was used to provide refuge to people displaced by political violence in nearby KTC during apartheid.

As they moved, other people occupied it. The city confirmed the site had been rezoned for upgrades to individual residential sites, with the installation of sewerage and water pipes and electricity, and the construction of roads.

Read more on:    helen zille  |  cape town  |  protests  |  service delivery

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