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.