Consult before changing

Simon Pasiya, chairman of the Masi Business and Development Forum; Phumeleli Mxoli, chairman of the Citizen Housing League; and Nonesi Magobozi, chairman of Embo Masi ECD Forum

The article “Fire station uproar” (False Bay Echo, August 31) refers.

I would like to point out that neither Dr Lutz van Dijk or Rosemary Millbank and others represent, or have a large following in Masi.

In fact, quite the opposite is true. We accepted a lot of white people (so-called activists) who came to our rescue and told us what is good for us.

Those white people own the majority of non-profit organisations in Masi.

As we speak, they get millions of donations at our expense.

Dr Van Dijk and Ms Millbank talk as if they live in Masi. They don’t. They live in white upmarket areas and have no idea of what is really needed by the people living in poverty-stricken areas.

They are, in fact, unpopular among many other leaders that have lived in the area since Masi’s inception.

They clearly have their own agenda and this will not benefit the current residents of Masi.

The people of Masi and the community representatives who do represent the majority would like to have the right to voice their own needs, not to be told what is good for them.

We want the land at Solole to be used for infrastructure and services. This will not only directly service the Masi community, but will also add value and create jobs for Masi residents and surrounding areas.

We also want our houses to increase in value, rather than for Masi to continually be expanded as a low value area by “activists”.

They have placed us in a continual spiral of poverty and social inequality. We want jobs so we can afford our houses, educate our children and live with dignity in our old age. This is a human right.

We want a fire station; we didn’t forget the last fire that raged through our community destroying over 500 homes.

We want a pedestrian bridge that will cross over Kommetjie Road from Masi to our facilities in Solole. We want an old age home, drug rehab facility (drug abuse has become rife), a safe house for abused women and children, and an education centre. This will deal directly with social inequality but, very importantly, create permanent employment for our Masi residents.

We don’t want low cost gap houses at Solole because that will not uplift Masi and that will not grow Masi. We want the City to provide funding so that Masi entrepreneurs are given tenders to clean the toilets and streets, so our people can be employed.

We don’t want outside cleaning companies and cleaners. Why does Dr Van Dijk not want to provide funds which were meant to uplift Masi residents, to upgrade their homes and shacks? We know he receives these donations in favour of us. How much actually is spent here?

We are not told or consulted on how it must be spent. Why are Masi residents not employed to do so?

Who is Rosemary Millbank? What are her credentials? Who pays her? Is she just using black people to get what she wants?

Rosemary Milbank responds:

I work closely with the elected community leaders and I’m afraid I do not know those who have made accusations against me.

Because of different political groups in Masi, there will always be different opinions about my intentions.

I suggest that proper research is done into our reasons for opposing the “fire station”.

Dr Lutz van Dijk responds:

Simon Pasiya and two other Masi leaders are accusing Ms Milbank and myself of a number of really horrible things: That I have received funds to upgrade shacks which I held back, that I built apartheid-style flats in Masi and above all that I pretend to live in Masi and have many followers in the community. Please allow me to respond for myself only:

Mr Pasiya, since I started working in Masiphumelele 16 years ago, I never pretended to speak for the community, but all my efforts were to support a united Masi leadership. Here you are maybe right to accuse me of not having been successful. It pains me to see that you as Masi leaders are still putting so much energy in fighting each other than working together. You certainly do not pretend to speak for the Masi Development Forum and Masi leaders like Mr Moletsane, Mr Dumsani or Mr Nompunga, right?

There were a few times when we all worked successfully together – Masi leaders, Masi NGOs and Masi neighbours: For example when there was no high school in Masi and primary and high school pupils were cramped into overcrowded container classes. Please speak to the principal and teachers of the Masi High School or Ukhanyo Primary about how they remember my role in this struggle.

I never held back one rand of funding for Masi, I never earned one rand of income for myself in Masi (I earn all my income overseas as a writer with readings and translations). Yes, I remember that you were disappointed when you asked me a few times for money for your “Masi Business Forum” and my response was that I have a commitment that the internal conflicts around the Amakhaya Ngoku Housing Project should be solved among the beneficiaries first – and that I would appreciate your support in this.

Please ask the AN accountant whether I have ever received One rand for the many, many hours of work for this first housing project. I never did or even asked for any, but I raised more than
R20 million from private donors in South Africa and from overseas for the construction of the first 223 flats, a community hall and a playground. The beneficiaries can still become owners of these flats and would be out of poverty forever if the majority would just follow the contracts they have signed.

And yes, here you are right, Mr Pasiya: I still hope for responsibility and honesty and do not believe in forced evictions of those who are not paying their modest rent or sublet to others for their own profit.

My apologies, Mr Pasiya, that I sometimes said or wrote indeed, that I was for many years almost daily in Masi. This was never related to my work for the community as a whole, but during those years when I was the co-founder and co-director of the Hokisa Children’s home in Masi which also created work and training for some adults from Masi who are now the managers and leaders of this project.

Finally: Do you really think your arguments become stronger as you attack me as a white person? During apartheid I was not allowed entry into your country. From 1997 I had the privilege to learn from Archbishop Desmond Tutu that many of us can in some way contribute to building a new democratic, non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. It saddens me deeply that the divide between many extremely poor people and some extremely wealthy people is still not overcome – and that the idea that sharing might benefit all, is still a strange and in many ways corrupted one. But maybe you will do better in choosing one side in this discussion around the fire station and giving up the idea of gap housing for Solole Farm – which would be the first area in the whole valley of integrated housing for poor and middle class families, independent of race or language, but united in overcoming extreme poverty.

However, I have reached retirement age and I will leave South Africa soon in all modesty. I am grateful to those who I had the privilege to work with – and also that the Masi High School is returning to excellent matric results.

Continued on page 7

I am extremely proud of the team at the Hokisa Children’s Home. I am sorry that we never did work closely together, Mr Pasiya, as you most probably would have never summarised your verdict the way you did.

Dumsani Nhlapo, chairman of the Masiphumelele Development Forum, also commented on the letter:

As Masiphumelele, we are distancing ourselves from this email.

In Masi we don’t have a citizen group (and) we have a business development
forum, which is not run by Simon

Last week Sunday we had a meeting. They were not part of the meeting. All of the community structures agreed to build gap housing.

We will call them and ask them who they represent because we are representing people. Gap housing is supported by all Masiphumelele structures.