We are delighted with the news that our bid has made it onto the shortlist as a World Design Capital 2014 project.
Our bid, “Imagine Princess Vlei”, is for a community-led collaborative design process to transform the land around Princess Vlei into an urban nature park that will honour its natural and cultural heritage, submitted under the WDC theme of Bridging the Divide.
Our campaign to save Princess Vlei from the proposed mall development has always been driven by a bigger vision of transforming the space into an asset that can serve all citizens for generations to come. This vision has been deepened and strengthened by years of tireless and passionate engagement by local and broader communities in rehabilitating, cleaning up and re-imagining this space.
We believe that our proposed project holds valuable lessons for the community-driven transformation of public space throughout Cape Town, opening the way for the evolution of a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive city driven by a dynamic partnership between civic authorities and engaged citizens. We take heart that the merits of our project have been recognised by the curators of the WDC process, who have listed it as one of six that “demonstrates the calibre of projects being sought in the second call for submissions”.
We hope that the authorities will follow their lead and support the development of a people’s park at Princess Vlei, rather than a shopping mall. We also hope that World Design Capital 2014 will be used as an opportunity to deepen civil society involvement in shaping our city – the Princess Vlei story well illustrates the importance of public engagement in significant planning decisions.
We are very proud that Imagine Princess Vlei has been shortlisted as an official WDC 2014 project. This brings well deserved recognition and institutional support to this worthy cause, and we have every confidence that this project will go on to be accepted in the final round . It is high time that the historically marginalised communities around the vlei are rewarded with development appropriate to this context. Princess Vlei is a magnificent location with cultural, environmental and ecological significance. If developed appropriately, it holds the potential to heal Cape Town’s divisions in myriad ways.
Our proposal for a community-driven design process to re-imagine the space around Princess Vlei can be downloaded here. View the press release from the WDC.
“Baptism in living water is a very important part of our religion – it goes back to the time of Jesus. Every Sunday we come to Princess Vlei to baptise new converts. We travel all this way because this is natural water, with spiritual power.
“The proposed mall is a very serious concern for us. The local and provincial government must give us respect, they must have the decency to consider our views. A shopping mall should be the last thing to think about for that place.”
This is what Victor Booi from the Church of God and Saints of Christ said. Booi was at a meeting of about 20 religious leaders called by the Princess Vlei Forum.
The meeting was opened by Reverend John Oliver from the Princess Vlei Forum and the Western Cape Religious Forum. Oliver said that the intention was to create a pressure group to send a clear message to the authorities that Princess Vlei is a sacred site with powerful memory and history for people of faith. To build a shopping mall there would trample on the rights of the faith community and would upset divine balance.
Ebrahim Karriem, from the United Ulama Community, commented on the importance of protecting environmental sites, which play a big role in uplifting the surrounding communities.
The group resolved to call another meeting on 14 July, and to invite all leaders of churches who baptise at the vlei, as well as representatives of any other organisation whose members have an interest in conserving this spiritual site.
The Princess Vlei Forum is committed to working with all interested groups to develop the site in a way that honours our natural, cultural and spiritual heritage, and to exploring what facilities are needed to make baptism more comfortable and dignified.
By Mea Lashbrooke
Bridging the Divide When thirty Cape Town citizens set off on a walking tour of the environs of Princess Vlei on Sunday morning (23 June 2013) it was with the intention of learning about the Vlei - its history, its ecosystems and the current controversy around proposed commercial developments. Before long there was a vibrant camaraderie between the people, young and old, reflecting the theme of Bridging the Divide that has long characterised the work of the Princess Vlei Forum.
The wind was sharp, the sun was warm, the Vlei gleamed and in the distance Prinsesskasteel was a little hazy. Conversation was lively. There was mutual agreement that Nature should prevail and with the support of the people this would happen, and a proposed shopping mall would not be erected there.
Mr Abe Abrahams, Science Teacher at John Graham Middle School, told the group that the time has come to listen to the youth - the future is in their hands, they understand the importance of preserving a healthy environment and they will demand what is right.
Mr Philip Bam, Chair of Princess Vlei Forum, said recent events in Turkey have shown what young people can do when their Public Open Space is threatened by commercial development. Mr Kelvin Cochrane, Co-ordinator of Dressing The Princess Project (indigenous vegetation rehabilitation) at the Vlei, said it is the youth who have assisted during the past four years. The result is a thriving fynbos ecosystem with an unusually high count of pollinators recently recorded.
There are enough malls the children said. They wanted to see birds and frogs. They can go to malls any time they said. Teenagers from Lavender Hill, students from Heathfield and Zonnebloem spoke with one voice: “Hands off our Green Space”. Artists, singers, faith leaders, computer experts, lawyers, nurses, journalists and teachers walked and talked with one mind with the young people: the Vlei and its surrounds is a place to feed the soul.
Perhaps it was the Spirit of the Princess, perhaps it was connecting with Nature, but during the walk there were helping hands at all times. At the end it was clear that new friendships had been forged out of a common cause. And walkers were planning their next visit.
“People say that the future belongs to the youth, but I think the present belongs to the youth. We can’t sit around waiting for everyone else to solve our problems, we need to stand up right now”.
With these words, Marissa van Rensburg opened the Youth Speak 4 the Princess press conference held in Grassy Park on June 15. The conference made it clear that these youth are not sitting around and waiting. They are actively involved in taking charge of their future and fighting for their heritage, as shown bytheir determination to save Princess Vlei from the development of a mall on its south eastern shore.
The conference was held to enable youth to tell the press and our civic leaders what Princess Vlei means to them, and to show how they have been working to rehabilitate and transform the space into a safe recreational green space that can serve Cape Town for generations. Sadly, none of the City Councillors, Mayoral or Provincial representatives invited to the meeting were there to hear the message. Youth came from five local schools, and other organisations including WESSA, SAPCO (South African Progressive Civic Organisation), UCT SRC, and the ANCYL. Photographs and writing place around the wall bore testimony to the hard work these youngsters have put into rehabilitating and cleaning up the vlei. As Michelle Mercury from South Peninsula High remarked, this experience has taught them “the importance of indigenous vegetation”.
“Be assured that all students, parents and teachers at South Peninsula High School oppose the building of a concrete jungle on the beautiful Princess Vlei,” she said
Several Grade Seven learners from John Graham Primary Science club read a statement by the club. This has been very active on the vlei, which has provided a rich resource for science lessons. Their statement appeals to “our local political leaders and government leaders to act responsibly and not make decisions that will destroy our natural environment but to support us in our plea to save Princess Vlei as a safe green space for many generations to come.”
Pupils from Steenberg Primary read moving poems and statements written by classmates. Kaitlin Spiers’ statement points out that “Princess vlei is not just a Vlei, its not just land and water waiting to be destroyed. It’s a place of memories, our heritage and our life. My mom and her friends grew up being at Princess Vlei, and so did many other men and women. They had children and they wanted to let their kids experience the same things they did.”
Nu-haa Roberts describes the vlei as a place where “ we feel free and come alive … Princess Vlei is our second nature and a place where people can come to when we feeling lonely and sad. This place connects us when we feel disconnected.
Abdeeya Fredericks from SAPCO commented on how youth often hear of significant sites that once existed but have since been destroyed for the sake of progress, and affirmed SAPCO’s opposition to the “continued insensitive expansion of corporations into our communities”.
Dominique Affinand from Lotus High questioned who would benefit from the building of the mall. “ A mall will only benefit those who are wealthy whereas a recreational space is a place where we can come and bond with each other.”
His words were echoed by Braam Hanekom from the ANC Youth League national task team, who remarked that the Princess Vlei saga suggests that the authorities “are more concerned in providing for the wealthy elite so they can spend and earn large monies instead of providing a space for the youth and the people from the community around grassy park to play in, to enjoy and to grow in.”
Hanekom questioned the “big silence” form key role players, who through their actions are violating the rights of the community, and forcing a mall on them.
He said that youth should get involved in the campaign, and pledged to engage the ANCYL as well as its partner organisations to get actively involved. He reiterated that as a non-political campaign it would be good to see DA youth and DASO get involved. “We would be very much happy if they come and join the campaign but if they don’t I think that is a statement on its own.”
Perhaps Daniel Hector, from Lotus High, summed it up, when he said, “I see the Princess as a mother and an ecological key factor to our community. Taking away the Princess will be like taking away a mother from a child, because as Princess Vlei is part of mother nature and as she has looked after us we should take it upon ourselves to look after her.”
It is clear that the youth are behind our struggle to save Princess Vlei, and are actively asserting their right to the preservation of their cultural and environmental heritage. The Princess Vlei Forum plans to follow this up with further events, and to ensure that this message gets passed onto our city leadership. We have repeatedly asked for clarity from the city on their intentions with this site. Let us hope they listen to the wisdom of the youth.
“To all those who want to destroy our beauty in Cape Town you should consider all the pollution a mall would bring and all the animal’s habitats that will be ruined. We youth are the future. think about us and our future lives. We expect you to take care of the world and implement a greener life.” Mihle Mleni
This is the message Mihle Mleni has for our civic leaders. Mihle was one sixty children who enjoyed a morning of excitement and learning at “Paddle for Peace” on June 9th. The event was part of the Peninsula Paddle held annually to raise awareness about the importance of conserving and protecting our city’s waterways.
As an iconic wetland under threat of commercial development, Princess Vlei was a natural choice to hold the educational part of this programme, which was hosted by the Western Cape Network for Community Peace and Development
Children aged 11 to 14 years were brought to the event by the Agency for Refugee Education, Skills Training & Advocacy(ARESTA); the Ark City of Refuge; Women for Peace; AfriOceans; WESSA and Gravity Adventures.
The most exciting activity of the day was the paddling where children learnt one that if you do not work together you will just send your canoe in circles. This activity was managed by Gravity Adventures, who ensured that all the canoes stayed afloat despite their inexperienced skippers.
Zibi the ostrich from Waste Wise brought a message against littering in an interactive show. The Ocean Warriors, under the guidance of Afri Oceans, fought on the shores of Claremont Beach by picking up what litter they could find and testing the water for bugs. There was excitement all round as Riaan Manser and his film crew tested the water − Riaan is well known for his solo adventures, including and was first person to kayak alone around Madagascar.
Princess Vlei Forum’s Reverend John Oliver also took to the waters, first in a canoe and later in a more spiritual vein when he participated in a baptism ceremony that was held by one of the many churches that visit the vlei every Sunday.
Bridget and Kelvin from the Princess Vlei Forum explained the history of the vlei to the children, and discussed the proposed plans to build a mall on the site. The children were invited to write a message expressing their views of this on a card “leaf”, and to decorate the leaf with art materials. The beautiful leaves with their inspiring messages were then hung on the trees and the PVF tent.
The day ended with a rousing performance by Emile Jansen and Mixed Mense, who spoke to the children about our Khoi heritage and performed their rap “The Princess of the Vlei.”
The day demonstrated once again what value this space offers as a recreational, community building and educational venue. Anyone attending this event would have been struck by the insensitivity and lack of vision of the proposal to destroy this site with a shopping mall. In the words of young Sandiswa Mahlangeni:
“Princess Vlei is a great place of nature. To destroy such a beautiful place would simply not be cool To take it down because of a mall is not cool So we ask you government to consider not demolishing this place it is a memory and a place where people enjoy being!”
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.