‘This is not the heart of Vrygrond’

Albertina Ngqame

There are a lot of issues in Vrygrond, says Albertina Ngqame – otherwise known as MaYoli.

Many of the current problems are misunderstood because they are not one simple thing but like a river: many problems that run into one another and then get mixed.

MaYoli knows Vrygrond. She has been a ward councillor, and has lived in the area for 20 years now.

She says that from the outside looking in, it all looks the same. But there are different issues and different factions driving those issues.

“Yes, we have land issues. But the people causing the trouble and stoning and burning things, that is not the same thing. Those people breaking things, they are doing criminal things: this is not the heart of Vrygrond,” she says.

She is in all the significant ways, a true community leader. If people need advice – and they do – it’s MaYoli’s door they knock on for everything from IDs to asking her who to approach about broken street lights.

She also takes a stand over how immigrants are treated in the community.

“The people ask me why I am so friendly to foreigners, and I say to them, because we are all human beings, and we don’t know the stories that people carry, and we also don’t know where we are going to end up. Even me, I was a ‘foreigner’ once.

“Many years ago, I came here from the Eastern Cape, but now this is my home, and these are my people. And my people are in trouble,” she says.

MaYoli has a plan, though, and it’s coming together. The False Bay Echo first met with her in January (“MaYoli dreams of nourishing mankind,” January 25) to hear news of her desire to set up an organisation based on health advice and support. But since then, Vrygrond has started burning.

MaYoli is now ready to launch the Masakane Initiative. The tag line for the organisation is “Let’s build a brighter future”.

And the fact that this has been started from inside the community rather than the outside in, makes the Masakane Initiative special.

Ma Yoli says she noticed that even amid the recent riots, residents of Marina da Gama were asking on social media how they could help the community.

“So some people do understand that there are mixed issues that are deep and have been there a long time. People must notice that we have lived as neighbours a long time very happily. It is a criminal element that now is taking the lead as if it is the community, and the community is just as scared,” she said. “All those years we lived happily – then along came politics to split the people.”

But it’s the offer of help which piqued MaYoli’s attention. She does need help to help her people, she says. Poverty and education are two constant problems; youth unemployment is rife and, of course, she says, gangs use this. “They use our youth for their own purposes.”

And so, MaYoli is going to open the doors of her container, starting with health. Because MaYoli knows that many people who are living with HIV/Aids are not able to eat, and they need to eat to ensure that they can take their antiretrovirals.

But basically, she is just starting the dialogue with health. And once dialogue has opened, she can respond to the varying needs of her people.

“We want to help the vulnerable community of Vrygrond and Overcome Heights who are sick and unemployed, and, as a leader in this community, I can’t do it alone. I would appreciate your support financially or with any goods: a stove, an urn… absolutely anything is welcome,” she says.

Somebody who understands her drive is Fergus Turner of The Hive, where MaYoli is studying permaculture. Mr Turner has helped secure a container for MaYoli to set her up in the community.

“MaYoli, who has been with The Hive since October 2016, is our queen bee at The Hive. She inspires us with her capacity to act with clarity of purpose.

“Her sense of civic responsibility and community through participation is exemplary. She is a role model to us all,” Mr Turner says.

“MaYoli’s project represents the next step in her growing vision to connect people, resources, knowledge, and ultimately create more harmonious and common-sense ways of dealing with imminent problems, including youth unemployment, early childhood development and basic health-care access.”

Mr Turner says The Hive is supporting MaYoli’s initiative.

To reach her, email:
y.ngqame16@gmail.com or WhatsApp or call 078 815 7490.