Building walls, fences is no answer
SOME people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in.” (August Wilson, playwright). But in the case of Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga, his proposed wall to keep feuding residents apart in Mahube Extension 1 and Extension 17 in Mamelodi will further divide the troubled community east of the capital.
Interview notes and voice recordings had to be checked repeatedly to ascertain that the city’s first citizen did indeed make such an unusual proposal to resolve the tension between those living in houses and their informal settlement neighbours.
Last week, houses in the area were petrolbombed and shacks destroyed.
The informal settlement is illegal, and the clash erupted because formal-house residents are tired of footing higher bills as a result of illegal water and electricity connections.
The picture on a newspaper’s front page of a woman, kneeling, hands raised and pleading for her shack to be saved, became a symbol of the dire situation on the day.
Msimanga visited the area soon after the trouble started and promised that a wall would be built “as soon as possible” to ensure that peace prevailed between the two groups.
Social media exploded, with the mayor’s plans being likened to the apartheid era Group Areas Act and the Berlin Wall.
Tshwane is ruled by a coalition government, with support from the EFF, a party known to advocate land occupation.
However, it should be noted that Msimanga previously denied the EFF put a gun to his head and offered its support in governing the city in exchange for land. Despite this, claims to that effect refuse to go away.
Be that as it may, building a wall to keep residents apart will be taking matters too far.
With protests widely accepted as part of a South African DNA, Msimanga could soon find himself with lots of walls to build if he means to go ahead with this plan.
The government and leaders should work to break down the fences and walls that divide South Africa, not put up more barriers.
By separating wealthier residents from their struggling counterparts, the mayor will not heal the wounds of the community.