“Princess Vlei has brought us together and given us a future” declare the Youth
“We can thank Princess Vlei for uniting us and enabling us to love her and the diverse group of people to whom she belongs. But most importantly for me, she has made me love myself.”
Shanel Johannes of Grassy Park, second year Politics student at University of Cape Town, expresses what has become a growing phenomenon during the past several years of the Save Princess Vlei Campaign, and was particularly apparent during last week’s Stand for The Princess.
Shanel joined nearly 150 enthusiastic citizens, not only from the surrounding area, but from further afield - Milnerton, Kalkbay, Rondebosch – who were Standing for the Princess at different times during peak hour traffic, morning and evening, every day last week, rain, wind or shine, along the M5 adjacent to the Vlei. On the first day when a rainbow spanned the Vlei campaigners knew they were in for a good week.
Starting each dawn when the sky was stills streaked pink and the pelicans were gliding down to the gleaming waters for their early morning feed, campaigners held high their posters proclaiming an end to plans for a mall on the shores of Princess Vlei. Rev John Oliver of Zeekoeivlei darted about the traffic with a poster reading “Hoot if you love the Princess.” A cacophany of hooters, flashing lights and thumbs up, conveyed encouraging support.
With the energy inherent in youth, volunteer learners from three surrounding schools added colour and laughter to the event. Teachers are facilitating the growth of this interest with information on history, tradition, culture and environment. Poems are being written, pictures of the Princess created and history discovered. Fairmount Secondary held its own early morning Stand.
Joey Latief from Wynberg Boys High said he had read about the event and just had to be part of it. A youngster from Vista Nova arrived with her own petition. Twenty-one year-old Marcus, from Parkwood, said, “I come to all the events at the Vlei. I must be here for this.”
Over the past few years many learners have assisted Kelvin Cochrane with his Dressing the Princess Project, rehabilitating indigenous flora to the area. “This is our Vlei and we must look after her,” is the common refrain from the youth who have learnt to understand. “Restoring Princess Vlei this way restores our dignity”, says Cochrane
A great healing is happening as Capetonians protest the proposed mall on the shores of the Vlei. It is particularly noticeable amongst the youth, but senior citizens of the area are an important part of this restoring, for in their ‘re-membering’ there is a ‘re-storying’ of the past and the future, empowering a confidence in both young and old. “I recall so many important milestones in my life that took place at the Vlei” said senior citizen Mr Godfrey Pritchard who joined the Stand with his wife every day in their little three-wheeler vehicle, decorated with flags and posters in support of the Vlei.
“To integrate your past is to know your future”, says Kim Broadbent, Life Coach from Claremont, who attended the Stand several times. “And this isn’t only about the local community. It’s about all of us, because we all belong to Cape Town and this Vlei is part of our common heritage.”
Lawyers, civil servants, doctors, environmentalists, psychologists, artists, sports and business men and women, carried posters that read “No fracking Mall”, “Don’t Mall Our Princess”, “Say yes to the Princess”, and many more.
Sharief America, lawyer with Southern Suburbs Legal Advice Centre said, “This place has long been known as Claremont Beach. The Princess belongs to us all, to the wider community, and this stunning awareness campaign has demonstrated that. Everyone has made this week special. And my daughters and I loved being a small part of it.”
Meta, a resident at the Vlei, held a poster and danced at the side of the road. Her life partner, Gino, holding up three carp he had caught that day, said, “A mall will kill the Princess.” Cyclists stopped to help. Volunteers arrived on foot, on bikes in luxury cars and in cars with exhausts that have seen better days. Everyone admitted they had never enjoyed the rush hour so much or the sound of hooting.