Ulwaluko site in dispute

Community leaders have lashed out at plans to sell one of Khayelitsha’s initiation sites to a private developer for the construction of a “shopping centre”.

But the City of Cape Town has denied reports of a planned shopping centre, saying the land is yet to be advertised.

The land, on the corner of Spine Road and Mew Way in Khayelitsha, has been used as the initiation site for many years and fears are mounting that the sale of the land could severely compromise the custom.

Both the Khayelitsha Traditional Forum (KTF) and the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) are now accusing the City of Cape Town of not properly consulting the people of Khayelitsha, and for disrespecting black cultures and traditions. The two organisations said the land had, for many years now, been used as a site for circumcision rituals.

KTF chairperson Chief Thembelani “Aah! Daluxolo” Mthotywa said he was speechless when he heard the land was to be sold.

However, he said, the community would continue using the site for initiation purposes until further notice.

During this month and December, teenage boys are engaged in an exciting and challenging time of their lives as they go through the rite of passage to manhood.

Mr Mthotywa said KTF had met with the City a while ago and had been promised other land. “But I doubt that. Where would they get land when they have been saying there is no land? The news came as a shock to us, from a sub-council meeting,” he said.

“The problem we have is that we have been using that land for years. It is the first land that we used since Khayelitsha was established.”

Mr Mthotywa said as the custodians of their culture, they had fought tooth and nail when people wanted to illegally occupy that land.

“We fought the illegal invasions. Look at us now, we are the laughing stock of those who wanted the land,” said Mr Mthotywa.

“We were at the forefront of that fight because we believed the land should be preserved for this sacred culture. We have been hard done by.”

KDF chairperson Ndithini Tyhido criticised the City for having failed to consult relevant community structures. He also took a swipe at City officials who, he said, believed they were spiritual leaders of Khayelitsha.

He claimed that a certain City manager had held a meeting in Khayelitsha on behalf of the City and made people sign a register to prove that there had been consultation.

“We are opposed to any development that seeks to undermine our cultures. We believe we should be promptly informed of any happenings in Khayelitsha. But there is certain manager who thinks he is the Dalai Lama of Khayelitsha. He thinks he is a spiritual leader of Khayelitsha.

“The truth is, the KTF was conned into believing it was a consultative meeting. Obviously with City officials they always make people to sign register. Then this particular man took it to the City and said he consulted with relevant structures,” he said.

Mr Tyhido said KDF had identified another piece of land for initiation but its location could not be revealed.

But mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond, said the statements were “factually incorrect”. He said a meeting had been held on Friday May 19, attended by the City’s property management and health departments, Khayelitsha sub-council managers and the KTF.

He said the KTF had been informed of plans to develop the land for commercial purposes.

“In addition, a report was submitted to the relevant sub-councils for notification. As it stands, currently there is no ‘in-principle’ approval from any delegated authority or council for disposal of Erf 1,” he said.

But Mr Diamond said the City had identified the issue as a culturally sensitive matter and endeavoured to work with the KTF to find a solution.

He said the KTF was required to identify three possible alternative sites for an initiation school after which the City’s health department would assist the KTF with the reservation of their preferred site.

“The City has committed and will continue to work with the KTF to secure an alternative suitable site to enable the forum to continue practising their centuries-old Xhosa tradition that is a part of the Cape Town cultural landscape, a tradition that we embrace and respect,” said Mr Diamond.