Urban upgrade welcomed

Roegshanda Pascoe

While some community activists in Manenberg have welcomed the proposed urban upgrade to the area, they say they will remain cautious until a finalised document is signed.

The provincial government announced that a “historic consensus” had been reached with the community on “how best to deliver a major urban upgrade, following an extensive pre-consultation process”.

However, it was pointed out that this was not the final version of the upgrade, but would form the basis of it.

Among the proposals is the merger of Sonderend Road and Edendale primary schools, with a new school being built where Edendale currently is. Silverstream High School will move to the old GF Jooste Hospital site, and will be transformed into a school of skills.

The sites currently occupied by Sonderend Road Primary and Silverstream High schools will be used to build a 594-bed regional hospital. Each of Rio Grande and Manenberg primary schools will also be rebuilt.

But Roegshanda Pascoe, chairperson of the Manenberg Safety Forum, questioned the timing of the announcement. “I hope that our community is not being misled. The government must sign and commit to these plans.

“They should not make promises to us just before the election, because they can come back and say that they had a relook at the plans, and could possibly throw the books at us.

“Also, I welcome the suggestion that Sonderend and Edendale should merge, but we already have too many children in one classroom. I will support it if enough teachers are employed and if a psychologist is based at the school. Our community is traumatised as it is,” Ms Pascoe said.

Tara September, chairperson of the Manenberg Women’s League, is of the opinion that infrastructure upgrades do not develop people.

“The issue of development must not be looked at short-sightedly. We need to have human development in the process. A few people agreed to this proposed plan, not the community. They had secret meetings, elected a secret committee, and now have secret plans,” Ms September said.

She also raised concerns that the regional hospital would not be serving the Manenberg community.

“We have been battling to get a day hospital in the area. One can only go to a regional hospital if you are referred by a day hospital, for example.

“Also, what will be different about this hospital in terms of safety? The safety of the staff of GF Jooste was constantly under threat. Local contractors and labourers will be fighting each other for the crumbs of this development, when big companies will be getting away with the bulk of the money,” Ms September added.

Michael Mpofu, spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille, said one of the main objectives of the upgrade was to reduce crime and to allow for safe spaces for the community to travel to get to various government services.

“TheViolencePrevention throughUrbanUpgrading (VPUU) non-profit organisation (NPO) has been a key partner in facilitating community input on this upgrade, which is informed by a Public Investment Framework (PIF) and a Community Action Plan (CAP),” he said.

Chairperson of the Manenberg Community Steering Committee, Jonathan Jansen, denied that consensus had been reached with only a small group of residents.

“This process was deeply driven by the community. There were lots of effort put in from the three parties involved – the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town, and the community.

“The community challenged some of the government’s proposals. For example – they wanted to close Silverstream High completely, but we fought for it to be retained as a school of skills. Everything that was put on the table and accepted, came from the community. Yes, this is indeed a historic event, but this was only pre-consultation. The next step would involve official processes,” Mr Jansen said.

Fareed Jansen, the secretary of the Manenberg Community Steering Committee, agreed that the proposal on the table was, “something we pushed”. Mr Jansen is also the chairperson of Silverstream High School’s governing body.

“As the steering committee, we had various roadshows, and meetings at every community centre in Manenberg. Unfortunately the meetings happened at a time when gang violence was very high. Few people then attended meetings.

“The government wanted to move Sonderend to the old GF Jooste site, and we said primary school children cannot cross a busy road such as Duinefontein Road. Now it seems they want to take the credit,” he said.

Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), said the funds required for the construction of Rio Grande and Manenberg primary schools would come from her department.

“The exact dates for the commencement of construction of the further proposed new schools are not available as yet, as neither the planning nor the legislative and consultative process have been completed. It is for this reason that we are speaking of an agreed scenario for the upgrade of Manenberg at this stage,” Ms Hammond said.

Construction of the school of skills is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. In the interim, the WCED will be holding consultations on “the modalities of phasing the curriculum into Silverstream High from the beginning of the 2019 school year”.

The school of skills’ curriculum would be implemented in parallel to the normal school curriculum during this transition period, while the school is still on its current property, Ms Hammond added.

Principal of Sonderend Road Primary, Ruwayda Achmat, and Silverstream High School principal, Leslie Pieterse, said they had not been officially informed about the proposed plans. Ms Achmat, however, added that they would welcome a school of skills.

Meanwhile, the provincial health department received approval from national government, meaning that funding could be secured for the construction work. The hospital will be built in phases, with the first phase delivering 226 beds.

The regional hospital is intended to be larger than the Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain district hospitals, and will relieve pressure on these two facilities, as well as Groote Schuur, New Somerset, Tygerberg, Mowbray and Red Cross War Memorial Children’s hospitals.