Report responsibly

Tshepo Moletsane, community leader and Dr Lutz van Dijk, founder member of Homes for Kids South Africa (HOKISA), Masiphumelele

Your recent articles “Masi unrest grows”, False Bay Echo, May 5, and “School bus stoned in taxi protest”, False Bay Echo, May 12, refer.

We appreciate the Echo as a community newspaper which also helps to build bridges and understanding among all communities in our valley.

However, when it comes to reporting on Masiphumelele, it still seems to be like reporting on another world – either attempts to speak to some of the people in Masi are failing because “some were angry and refused to speak” (May 5), or, as in your follow-up report (May 12), there are only white neighbours speculating about what is going on in Masi, and Kathy Cronje of the Ocean View Police Forum providing details about Masi community meetings as “information she had been given” and what was going on at “Xhosa Square” (the correct name is Khoza Square). Ward councilor Felicity Purchase “feels”, according to “information she was given”, that there are “these community leaders (who) will not produce leaders…” as others say these “leaders are not their leaders.”

We think that such comments are negative for two reasons: They fuel the stereotype of “chaos” in Masi and also undermine the hard work done by those who try to lead and find peaceful solutions for Masi.

We are faced in Masi with extremely challenging problems – from crime and drug abuse to authorities’ unwillingness to openly and honestly plan a better future for us; one without the regular disasters of fire and flooding that affect huge areas in our community.

The“Greater Masiphumelele Development Framework Plan” is still kept secret (probably until after the elections in August), despite Masi leaders and civic organisations having – for many months now – requested this plan be made known so as to allow public input.

On April 5, the Far South Peninsula Community Forum (FSPCF) established a Masiphumelele working group, which consists of neighbours and Masi leaders working together on suggestions for solutions around land, basic services and housing and how to fight crime and drug abuse.

One of the nominated permanent FSPCF delegates from Masi is Brian Nompunga, chair of the Wetlands community (made up of more than 14 000 residents).

Why not talk to these or other known leaders and ask their opinion?

Some of us have been involved almost day and night in finding a way forward between protesting youth and angry taxi owners. An agreement was reached for better cooperation for the next six months and to review the situation then. Since then, it has been quiet in Masi and the area has gone back to normal.

Why is nothing known about these efforts? Why is there no “information given” to all these neighbours talking about Masi via what they have heard from others? Yes, in the middle of a protest it might not work to ask people randomly what is going on.

Yes, our leaders in Masi are all doing this on a voluntary basis – in addition to their day jobs and struggle for survival for their own families.

And yes, you will always find some who will say these leaders are not our leaders – as in any other community.

More than a month ago the new mobile police station in Masi was removed without any announcement to the community. Later we found out that it was gone for inspection for several weeks and no date was given when it will be back.

However, last Saturday, a new mobile police station was brought into Masi and placed next to the community hall. As much as we appreciate this move, please note that the community still demands a permanent police station to deal particularly with organised crime around drug dealing. We would be grateful if our communities around Masi would also support this demand.

Also note that the next court appearance for the 47 Masi activists will be in Simon’s Town on Tuesday June 14.

Most of them are accused of public violence.

It can be expected that many Masi residents will join the march to Simon’s Town in support of their family members and friends. It is our wish that this march will be attended by many, not only by people from Masi – and that it will be peaceful.

Karen Kotze, False Bay Echo reporter, responds:

Our first-hand, professional experience, is that so-called representatives and community leaders seldom, if ever, answer when we call or email them. If they do answer, they specifically ask to not be quoted or they deny being community leaders.

Then there are people in important community positions who claim they are never home and never see anything that happens in Masi, officially, despite their positions, when we ask. And we do ask.

My colleague has been sworn at when asking residents of Masi for their input or explanation about ongoing incidents, and has been shouted at by residents of Masi to “f **k off”.

We have both had to dodge bricks and bottles, thrown indiscriminately at us and police, during upsets at Masi. But we were there, asking. Each time.

And we have had people come to our office and offer us their stories.

We have also had people speak to us in abject terror for fear of being found out – residents of Masi who have told us they would be killed for saying anything to anyone about what happens inside Masi.

There is no one approach to Masi, and there is decisively not one storyline.

We are not creating the image of chaos in Masi, we are simply reporting on it.

However, when people from within Masi contradict each other’s statements, or refuse to engage with us, we have no choice but to turn to other information sources.

Also, in terms of journalistic integrity, we are required to be balanced and ask the legal, and recognised, representatives of the area for information. These are representatives of the City or people who hold positions which serve the area: they are found in the midst of the riots/upsets, on hand, and they answer their emails and phones.

Incidentally, when these sources quote information, they are doing so to share the cause or elements of the situation to help the rest of the Far South understand it, and also, by being vague, they are purposefully protecting their sources from harm.

The recognised community leaders, and the new nominated permanent FSPCF delegates are welcomed, and encouraged to engage directly with us, over any situations within Masi.

Inclusive is the request to them that they supply us with their direct, working contact information so we can create a healthy working relationship with them.