Build­ing walls, fences is no an­swer

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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