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!”