Masi res­i­dents de­serve hard-won place in the sun

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

I AM RE­SPOND­ING to Josette Cole’s ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle, “Re­volt a symp­tom of his­tor­i­cal pain” (Week­end Ar­gus, Au­gust 8), to add some more his­tor­i­cal con­text.

When I started my cam­paign as can­di­date MP for the old Demo­cratic Party for the elec­tions in June 1989 in Si­mon’s Town, one of the first is­sues I was con­fronted with was the plight of the “squat­ters” on the wet­lands near the refuse dump on the road to Chap­man’s Peak. When I vis­ited them the first time, I was ap­palled by their liv­ing con­di­tions. I also learnt about the evic­tions from Dassen­berg Farm to Site C in 1987 and their re­turn to the area in 1989.

I took this mat­ter to my first pub­lic meet­ing in Au­gust 1989 and I said: “No­body who calls him­self a Chris­tian can stand by idly and see how hu­man be­ings are suf­fer­ing. If I win this elec­tion I will re­gard it as a man­date from the vot­ers to have th­ese peo­ple moved to a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment.”

I took this mes­sage to ev­ery meet­ing, and when I won the elec­tion with a land­slide I im­me­di­ately started to ne­go­ti­ate with au­thor­i­ties to find al­ter­na­tive land. The first prob­lem was that there was still a reg­u­la­tion, pro­mul­gated by Chris He­u­nis, that there would be no per­ma­nent res­i­dence for blacks in the South­ern Penin­sula.

On Oc­to­ber 19 of that year, I had a meet­ing with the min­is­te­rial rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Jimmy Otto, and af­ter a lengthy dis­cus­sion he un­der­took to have the He­u­nis dic­tum scrapped.

Now the ne­go­ti­a­tions for a site started. On Novem­ber 4, Koos Ther­ron from Pro­vin­cial Af­fairs met home­less peo­ple to dis­cuss the fu­ture. The first pos­i­tive thing that hap­pened was his un­der­tak­ing to have per­ma­nent wa­ter in­stalled at the site.

As 1990 be­gan, the white peo­ple of the area started to be­come ag­i­tated be­cause news leaked about the peo­ple’s re­set­tle­ment. Let­ters at­tack­ing me started to ap­pear in the pa­pers. I was then in­vited to what I be­lieved was a ratepay­ers’ com­mit­tee meet­ing, but when I ar­rived I dis­cov­ered that it was a protest meet­ing. There were al­most 1 000 peo­ple and the mood was ugly. As I walked into the hall, I was booed to my seat.

When the meet­ing started, the au­di­ence, led by Mark Wi­ley, at­tacked the es­tab­lish­ment of a per­ma­nent town­ship and rounded on me for be­ing the in­sti­ga­tor of this de­ci­sion.

When I got a chance to speak, I re­minded the au­di­ence of my elec­tion pledge, but this did not pre­vent them from in­tro­duc­ing a mo­tion against the es­tab­lish­ment of the town­ship and a mo­tion of cen­sure against me.

What hap­pened af­ter that is his­tory. To­day, Masi­phumelele does have its prob­lems, but the pos­i­tives out­weigh the neg­a­tives. It is a solid, peace­ful com­mu­nity which only needs a break and fi­nan­cial aid to be­come a vi­able sub­urb of Fish Hoek.

I am proud I could play a role in help­ing the peo­ple ob­tain bet­ter liv­ing con­di­tions than they had. It does not mean that the work is done.

Projects like Amakhaya Ngoku are cru­cial and more are needed. We also need more white in­volve­ment in the town­ship. Many whites are do­ing laud­able work there, but most have yet to set foot in Masi.

Ev­ery­body de­serves his or her place in the sun, es­pe­cially the long­suf­fer­ing peo­ple from Masi­phumelele.

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