“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.
11 September 2012
"We need to draw a line in the sand, and say to the developer, ‘Jy is mal! We don’t want a mall!’"
These words from Goodhope Breakfast Show host Guy Mcdonald summarise the feelings
of the crowd who had come to celebrate Arbor Day at the Princess Vlei by planting 50 trees donated by Zaitun Rabani, Director of the Botanical Society of South Africa, and 150 fynbos plants.
The event was hosted jointly by the Princess Vlei Forum; the Biodiversity Education and Empowerment Directorate of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden; SANBI; and the students and teachers of John Graham Primary School and Lotus River High School
After a welcome by Philip Bam, chair of the Princess Vlei forum, and Muslim and Christian prayers, the learners were instructed on how to wield a spade safely. Most of them needed no instruction, as they are already seasoned planters, responsible for much of the fynbos now gracing Princess Vlei. Their enthusiasm was summed up by the words of Joshua Roybin (12) from John Graham Primary. “We just love the feeling of planting something.” His friend Ceathon Hendricks (13) agreed, “The outdoors is very important for children, especially nowadays when a lot of kids just play on their Xboxes. Planting has such emotional value for us, because you can see what you’ve planted, and when you come here again you can see how it is growing.”
Benny Pietersen, a teacher at Lotus River High, has been bringing students to plant at Princess Vlei for four years. “It has such positive spin-offs,” he said. “It teaches the kids leadership skills, and teaches them to take ownership of their environment, and to invest in it.”
Faldiela Chotia from the Western Cape Education Department agreed. “Spaces like this is vital for these children, many of whom come from areas plagued by gangsterism, drug abuse and poverty. It is hugely beneficial for them to come and experience the beauty and tranquility.”
While the children were busy, a number of community members and well-wishers came to offer support. Amongst them was Rachel Adams, grandmother of the cricketer Paul Adams, who announced that she had “come to protect our vlei”. Her nephew, Clarence, said that he and his friends had grown up near the vlei, and has many happy memories of sand boarding, boating, picking the abundant water lilies for waterblommetjie bredie and catching fish for supper. “This is a landmark from one of the cradles of human kind,” he said. “It is very important that we conserve it.”
After planting, the learners listened to short speeches from the various guests. The speeches kicked off with Kelvin Cochrane, from the Princess Vlei Forum, who thanked the learners for the contribution that they have made over the years to make the “people’s Plan” a reality.
“When we plant a tree, we are planting a lifestyle ... if you look across the road and see the urban build up, it tells us is that we need space to walk, for people to engage with, so we want to create a Kirstenbosch here at princess vlei. The vlei is part of our heritage, and it important that all of us take responsibility to redefining it. Let’s hope and pray that there will never be a mall on the princess.
Fadly Agiet from the Western Cape Department of Education said that by celebrating Arbor day, the children were joining a world community. He reminded them of the words of Chief Seattle, that what you do to the earth you do to yourself, and commended them for doing something for future generations. “What you have done today is increased your handprint on earth and decreased your footprint.”
Fadiela Chotia thanked the children, and challenged them to speak to their friends and get all the schools in the area involved in the Princess Vlei.
“More schools should hold their events here, their walks, market days and other events. It is very important for the community to be consulted on developments, as they impact on every one. As the Education Department, we would like to take hands with others and mobilize all schools to protect the vlei.”
Simone van Royen from the Botanical Society saluted the efforts of all to sustain and protect the vlei, which she said is “near and dear to all of us”. She commended the efforts of the learners, especially Learner “Chantal, who planted seven trees”, and said she was looking forward to driving past the vlei and knowing that in the years to come she and her family would still be enjoying these trees.”
Guy McD0nald from Goodhope FM, who received an enthusiastic applause from the crowd. He said that he was delighted to be there as he had “witnessed something momentous”. “It is so important for the youth to take a stand, and everyone of you has embraced a commitment to the future of this place. We need to draw a line in the sand, and say to the developer, ‘Jy is mal! We don’t want a mall!’
Roleen Elma, from SNBI outreach programme, and herself from Grassy Park, said that she’d been attending Arbor Day events for many years, but this event was really outstanding. “How often do we stop and look at a living thing that is not human? That is my challenge to you, try to take note of and appreciate a non-human living thing every day.”
Nikita January, from the Environmental Club at Lotus River High said “The reason I have personally chosen to be a part in saving the princess is not only because of its natural beauty but also because of the environmental benefits....we are dependent on the vlei, the trees and plants that the vlei provides a safe haven for. The very oxygen we are currently breathing is purer than elsewhere because of the natural contribution the vlei makes to our environment.
Uninformed or money hungry capitalist people are eager to get rid of this vlei. Why destroy something that was given to us freely? We live with this mentality that by building a mall we are doing good, creating jobs and preventing certain transgressions that take place at this vlei but have we ever stopped to think about the indigenous plants and animal species found here.
The event was rounded off with an enthusiastic performance from the Grade Four class of “The Primitives” dance group, led by their teacher Andrea Sefoor, before the children enjoyed a well-earned snack. Biscuits were donated by Simon Mantell, an enthusiastic supporter of the Save the Vlei Campaign.
The Arbor Day event illustrated yet again what a powerful role the Vlei can play in building community, apart from the social and physical benefits of living near a sustained and conserved natural environment. The message from all of the children and others attending was unmistakable: “This vlei as a natural site where we can enjoy the view and tranquility is priceless to us. We do not want a mall here!” Let us hope that those trees they planted will still be growing for many years to come.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.