Committed to development in Constantia

Alan Dawson

After months of clearing the site of the City Council’s waste dump on Ladies Mile, work has finally started on the controversial R250 million shopping centre, anchored by Shoprite Checkers as a tenant.

The boundaries are clothed in green netting. Earth-moving machines are visible and though the entrance looks more like a village pond (minus ducks), a man with a red-flag directs the coming and going of vehicles.

I was against the idea of yet another big shopping centre in Constantia. However, after reading Nasser Solomon’s response to a headline “Reclaimed farm to a mall,” (“Plans for drop-off revealed”, Bulletin April 14, 2016) I feel better knowing that this trustee of the Hadjie Abdullah Solomon Family Trust, is not only ensuring that the development complies with the by-laws and the “Constantia look and feel”, but that it would satisfy his great-grandfather.

“My great -grandfather and his descendants looked after that property on Ladies Mile Road very well. They were hard-working, focused people. The land was bought in 1902, they respected the land, it sustained them and it stayed in the family for more than 60 years until my grandparents and parents were forcibly removed.

“In truth, a more important test for me will always be, ‘What would Hadjie Abdullah Solomon have thought of the development and does it comply with his principles?’ If that test is passed, then I have no inner tension.”

He wrote that the Solomon family members were proud of their Constantia heritage, as their forefathers had put their blood, sweat and tears into this area – literally. His forefathers and family were buried at the cemetery on Spaanschemat River Road and his grandfather was a trustee of the mosque on Constantia Main Road and contributed to the mosque rates and taxes until the day he died.

“We are 100% committed to maintaining the exclusivity and rural feel of Constantia and the development had been designed accordingly, using top-calibre urban design professionals.”

Proof of their commitment will become evident as time goes by, so we can only watch and hope that the transformation from “dispossessed commercial farmland to dumpsite and back to quality commercial development” will stand up to Hadjie Abdullah Solomon’s principles.

67 minutes of kindness

I wonder what Mandela would have thought of the endeavours of those spending 67 minutes for others on July 18? Being a modest man, he might well have preferred those initiatives which involved thought and time rather than money and were also not a once-off good deed.

Such as Norma Davison’s idea in 2012 to rally her friends at Run Walk for Life in Constantia to make sandwiches for a school in Strandfontein where some pupils had nothing to eat during break. After delivering her first load, Norma started thinking about all the other non-Mandela days when these youngsters went hungry. So began her rosters for 30-something running and walking mates to take it in turns to bring two loaves of sandwiches every Wednesday. She has personally delivered them to the school for the past six years.

On this year’s Mandela Day, Alan Dawson, a former quickish swing bowler and inventive lower-order batsman for Western Province and now a landscape gardener of note, responded to the “let’s give back” initiative by taking 40 of his staff to give some TLC to a row of struggling trees in the Lower Tokai Park where he and his wife daily walk their dogs.

For two hours, they weeded around the tree roots to make a “well” for water, staked 240 trees (I counted) to withstand the wind and inserted little plaques into the ground with names of some of the trees.

What a difference a name makes! Rather sad-looking trees that I have walked past hundreds of times and ignored, suddenly meant something when I read they were Kei apple, white stinkwood and wild olive.

Alan hopes his initiative will encourage people to take ownership of the trees and bring a bottle or two of water when they come to walk their dogs.

Sadly some of the name tags have already disappeared and a couple of trees appear to have been broken, but Alan is determined not to let the vandals get away with it. He has Plan B in mind…

Mandela Trilogy

On July 17 I went to the first of two performances of the Mandela Trilogy staged by Cape Town Opera in the Artscape Opera House. Written in 2010 to coincide with our hosting of the FIFA World Cup, it has toured South Africa and also Cardiff, Munich, Ravenna, the UK, Ireland, Dubai and Hong Kong.

Michael Williams, CTO’s MD until April, wrote the book and lyrics while Peter Louis van Dijk was responsible for the music of Acts 1 and 3 while Mike Campbell handled Act 2.

Williams found that the numerous biographies on Mandela’s life suggested this three-part structure. Act 1 would take place in the Transkei, Act 2 in lively Sophiatown with its music and impending demolition. The final part would deal with Mandela’s imprisonment in Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster – and end with his release.

We know what happened when a horse was designed by a committee – it ended up a camel, a very worthy animal but not a horse. One person who had overall responsibility for the big musical picture might have given the trilogy a more homogeneous feel and would have known it needed cutting…

Still it was beautifully staged, sung and acted and made me realise what an extraordinary life Mandela had led from being an “Enemy of South Africa”, in the eyes of the apartheid state, to an international icon.


She complained she had been married so long that she was now on her third bottle of Tabasco sauce.