The politicians have claimed that Princess Vlei is not a well used space. Perhaps they would have changed their mind if they’d come on Heritage day, and seen the hundreds of picnickers who’d come to celebrate the holiday in the traditional manner, with a braai at the vlei. And all of them were not impressed with the plans to build a mall on the vlei.
People came from all over the peninsula to enjoy the sunshine, open space, and gleaming stretch of water beneath the benign gaze of the Elephants Eye. One family reunion had over 150 members.
“We come here because it is central – we come from Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Steenberg, Mannenberg...” A family member told us.
“I was baptised here when I was nine years old, now I am 45.”
“This the only place we have were we can come together and stand together,” an elderly family member from Lotus River said. “We are poor people, what must we do to keep this place?
A 67 year old man from Delft said that he came all the way here because this is a nature park, and he likes to watch the birds.
“We won’t allow people to take the vlei over, nobody will take it over look at the creation we have here, God gave it to us, it is not the government, God gave it to us, no shopping mall will be erected here, the rich just want to get richer, they want to kill the birds breeding here.
“I don’t want to see a building here... we need a park with trees and place for children to play. Zeekovlei is not safe, but here it is safe because you can see the place from the road.”
Roger Nel from Westlake said: “They can’t build a mall here, we don’t have enough recreational areas for our people. This is nice for the family and the children. It is safe here and close to home. The Mayor is forgetting the people ... there is democracy but you don’t have a say in what you want. The mayor has a big house, but we don’t... this is for our children. This must stay a nice happy recreational area for our kids and for ourselves. This has been our place for so long... how can they take it away and do this to our children? If any politician wants the coloured vote then they will not take Princess Vlei away from us.
“A mall is not necessary and will kill the other businesses here ... it doesn’t make business sense. Retreat road also has an array of business... they will bring a monopoly.”
His wife agreed. “We must all stick together... we must stand together on this, this is our children’s future... no one can take this land. God is on our side, if we pray together and stay together they will not take this place away ... this is the land of God, they do not have the right to build a supermarket here”
Pastor Ray from the Gospel Ministers Centre said “This is a nice calm safe place for your children, they must use the money rather to build a playground and add more toilets ...this is a nice place for children to meet their friends, there is no crime here.”
A 62 year old woman from Grassy Park said, “I used to bring my kids here when they were little babies, when you come from work you are so tired, but this is a place you can bring children, you can relax. This how I raised my children – we used to watch the baptisms here on weekend. Now I come here with my grandchildren
“I don’t agree with a shopping mall, then there will be no place for us to come... They are taking away our heritage. This is where I was raised, I want to pass it on to my children and grandchildren. This place has been standing for how many years, if they must put up a mall, what will happen to our heritage? This is very unfair, they must leave Princess Vlei the way it is, they shouldn’t take it away from us. We’ve all grown up here and come to love this place. They must leave it for our children.”
Another 55 year old woman from Grassy Park said: “Sometimes I take a walk here, if there is no transport, I can just come down here, I have been coming every Sunday since I was three years old. If they build a mall, where will we go? There are not rich people in the area, here you can just pack you bags and walk down here.”
Perhaps the message of the people is best summed up by young Ziya from Lotus Primary: “I enjoyed my day here and we don’t want yous to build a mall because the children have fun and play here”