‘They’ are not the problem

Horst Kleinschmidt, St James

The DA in Ward 69 should not seek any comfort from having won the ward through democratic ballot. The truth is that the vote revealed the sharp racial divide that defines us in the southern peninsula.

The City’s Xanthea Limberg, responsible for informal settlements, shows no grasp of the racial pressure cooker, of rich versus poor. Her remarks in the Echo (“‘People are living in the most horrific conditions’”) of April 27 are reminiscent of a previous era

Nearly all her comments are predicated by referring to “them”. Coupled with the usual politician speak, she wants to absolve her administration of blame, and look good in the eyes of those who voted for the DA.

She hides behind calling one-third of Masiphumelele a wetland.

When will the City grasp that National Parks have long ceased defining this as a wetland. But, it’s convenient to use an outdated court injunction to evict people who are forced to live here. Well justified TMNP (Table Mountain National Parks) conservation commences west of the so-called “wetland” shacks. To destroy homes the City may well rely on a court injunction it has no authority for.

Ms Limberg says “the informal area is too dense for sanitation provision”. But, density would be no problem if the City opened the land it bought for Masi’s expansion and then turned tail. Why? It was through activists like Tshepo Moletsane that the City reluctantly acknowledged its ownership of the western part of Erf 5131. And Solole? Initially thought of (correctly) as a gap suburb, it now is to be place for a fire station. Really? A former game park for one fire station?

Ms Limberg accuses “those who settle on a wetland” of often rejecting “alternative sanitation”. Really? Why are they then asking for toilets? “They” vandalise toilets, and block them with “rags and litter”. And then “they” don’t report the blockages, causing “delays” in repairs. And “they” make communal taps part of their private homes. In Masi? Untrue. And, “they” are increasing in number after fires, “increasing competition for land”.

What is she saying? The Group Areas Act should be re-instituted? Oh, and “they” build on “fire-breaks and access lanes”. Well, if the physical and racial fences are getting higher, that’s what you get.

And then she accuses “them” of throwing their refuse into the canals. I wager if she stayed in what she calls “wetlands” for a month, she’d be reduced to doing the same as “they” do.

For good measure she then blames the ANC for having created the “wetlands”. This happens to be untrue. I am no fan of the ANC, but it was an ANC mayor who bought Erf 5131 from National Parks for Masi’s expansion. For this land still not to be properly accessible is a blight on the DA.

I have no expectation that the DA or ANC have a plan to build integrated cities, where not only race, but class is systematically countered. They build to integrate in San Francisco and in London, but here white privilege and sheer arrogance still sows the apartheid seed that nourishes violent challenge. Masi grows because the area offers jobs. Masi has a middle-class that is too poor to afford homes in white suburbs but unwilling to buy houses in Mitchell’s Plain because its too far from their work. We need a gap suburb now.

The give and take in our neighbourhood is skewed in favour of the complacent “haves”. For a sensible, constructive and inclusive future, we should be building a citizens alliance that tells the politicians where to get off.