Vygieskraal canal clean-up in honour of Green Action Week

South Africa - Cape Town - 10 July 2020 - Rescue workers next to the Blackriver. An eight-year-old girl and a man in his 30s are feared drowned after stormwaters swept them away in an Athlone canal on Thursday afternoon. Abieda Steenkamp and two of her friends were playing on the banks of the canal in Klipfontein Road, close to Calendula in Vygieskraal, when the banks apparently burst as a result of heavy rainfall, and the children fell into the fast-flowing river. The little girl drifted and disappeared under the water while her two friends managed to get out. Witnesses say the unidentified man jumped into the water to help the girl, but he too got swept away by the strong current. Speaking to the Daily Voice at the scene, Michael said the children were playing next to the canal when they all slipped and fell in. The search was suspended at 13:00. The divers stopped their search opposite the intersection of Black river Parkway and Berkley Road due the thick undergrowth in the river. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

The search for a child and a man swept away in the Vygieskraal canal earlier this year would have been easier had the canal been clear of rubbish, say the volunteers who ran a clean-up there on Saturday.

The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), the Lutheran Church in Belgravia, activist Zelda Hintsa and youth volunteers filled 40 garbage bags in three hours, but there is still so much more to clean up.

Safcei is a multi-faith organisation promoting eco-justice, sustainable living and action against climate change.

Reverend Berry Buhr, from Safcei, said apart from commemorating Green Action Week, the event was also held in remembrance of Abieda Paulse, 9, and Yusuf Kiriboto, who drowned in the canal on Thursday July 9 (“Bodies recovered from canal”, Athlone News, July 29). Mr Kiriboto jumped into the canal to try to save Abieda after she fell in. Abieda’s body was recovered on Monday July 20 in the Liesbeeck River and Mr Kiriboto’s body was recovered the next day in the Bokmakierie canal.

“One of the reasons why their bodies took so long to surface is because of the pollution in the canal,” Reverend Buhr said.

Green Action Week is an international initiative that promotes sustainable living.

“It is important for us, not just for today, to look at our waste and consumerism. This is our earth to share, and we must all do what we can to care for it,” he said.

Moulana Salig Isaacs said some faith leaders had neglected to educate their congregations about the importance of caring for the environment even though it was mentioned in sacred texts, including the Qur’an and the Bible.

“This is very important, and we are starting to change the dynamics now. I feel that preachers must dedicate the month of October to teach about the environment. People do not always realise that the germs coming from dirt can be carried by the wind and make us sick. Our spiritual well-being is just as important as our environmental well-being. We need not only preach about spirituality but also the environment, as well as being practical about it, and not just theoretical,” Moulana Isaacs said.

Reverend Gerhard de Vries Bock said: “We are grateful for the partnership with Safcei to help us educate people to take initiative. We are responsible as the community to improve our living conditions. If we have clean water and clean air we can live a long life.

“The unfortunate situation that happened (the drownings) should not happen again. We need to all recycle first, before doing the Jerusalema dance. It is important to care for our environment – this is the legacy we will leave.

“We are proud of Cape Town and being the Mother City, but it is a mess. We call on all to support us in this action.”

Ms Hintsa said she had been amazed to see how many youth had taken part in the clean up.

“An interim committee was established and from this, the Belgravia recycling project was launched,” Ms Hintsa said.

The committee agreed to hold another three clean-up projects at the Vygieskraal canal before the end of the year.

Reverend De Vries Bock also appealed for assistance with food parcels. Call him at 073 303 1009 if you can help.