Residents’ anger boils over to school

Angry Section 4 residents barricaded the streets with burning tyres and other objects in protest against the development of Tambo Square.

Gugulethu’s Section 4 residents are up in arms over a housing development planned for Tambo Square informal settlement.

Tensions have been running high in the community since Thursday May 4 as Section 4 residents say the site should instead be used for recreational facilities such as a play ground, hall and library as well as for a mobile police station.

Protesting community members barricaded roads and have prevented teachers and pupils from accessing Vukukhanye Primary School for the past four days.

An irate area committee chairperson Joyce Ngcikwe told Vukani that the land where the informal settlement is based belonged to them. She accused the City of Cape Town of playing mind games with them.

She said they had numerous meetings with City officials, including Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for area west.

“It amazed us to see the area being developed after we agreed that it should be suspended until we reached an agreement with all the stakeholders. We have identified the land for our own facilities,” she said.

“With this protest we are saying enough is enough. We will not be fooled this way. But it must be clear that we are not fighting people of Tambo, but the government.”

The protesters have vowed to keep Vukukhanye Primary School closed until their concerns are addressed.

Ms Ngcikwe said the community would try to meet national Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and ask her to intervene.

She said they have exhausted all the avenues in the province but have not resolved the issue.

Another area committee member Siyabulela Diba called on Tambo residents not to fight against them.

He accused the City of trying to instigate violence between the two communities. “We decided on the protest because of frustration. We will fight for what we believe is ours,” he said.

Senior citizen Abigail Ntshoza called on people not to politicise the land issue.

“That has to stop. This is not politics, this is about people fighting for what is right for them. We are tired of people trying to politicise this,” she said.

The Gugulethu Development Forum has also intervened in support of the community of Section 4.

In a statement, the forum said it has resolved that the development by the City of Cape Town should be suspended with immediate effect until the situation is calm and resolved.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said they strongly condemn the violent protest action and disruption of schooling at Vukukhanye Primary School. “Over 700 learners have been affected,” she said.

She said communities are free to engage in protest action but cannot intimidate and prevent pupils from going to school. “The MEC is very concerned that communities target schools in their disputes with government. This is grossly unfair and is a practice that needs to stop,” she said.

She said the department’s priority at this stage is to ensure the safety of all pupils and teachers. She appealed to any influential community leaders to work with the City of Cape Town. She added that catch up programmes will be instituted for the valuable teaching and learning time that has been lost.

Mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg said the City is embarking on a project to improve the living conditions of the residents of the Tambo informal settlement.

She said the project has been characterised by intricate community dynamics since inception and engagement with all stakeholders has been in-depth, solution-oriented and constant.

“Among others, residents from formal houses in the area are challenging the use of the property that is earmarked for the Tambo informal settlement residents. Although the City supports the right of residents to air their grievances, it should be done in a peaceful and constructive manner.

“The protesters are fully aware of the channels that they should follow considering the length and level of engagement regarding this project,”she said.

She said the City is disappointed with the turn of events and the efforts by some to halt this project. She said the City’s doors, however, remain open for engagement.