Members of Tjatjies Samekoms, an organisation advocating for the building of a proud and dignified Manenberg, gathered in front of the Tokai Manor House on Saturday, where they spoke about the plight of the country’s indigenous people and a “restoration” plan that would see them “return to the land”.
They claimed they had been told by an official in the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works that they did not have permission to hold a gathering at the historic property. An email they showed the Bulletin, purportedly from this official, said: “This is Western Cape government property, and demonstrations, or gatherings are not welcomed and will not be allowed without permission. Any attempts of unlawful occupation of the land and or disruption of government activities will be vigorously opposed, and the necessary legal action will be taken immediately should such occur.”
Representatives from Tjatjies Samekom (the name means “Manenberg coming together”) had handed out flyers at Constantia malls several days earlier, inviting people to the gathering.
Mario Wanza is the administrator of Tjatjies Samekoms, formerly known as Proudly Manenberg. He goes by the name Gatto Ghutto, arguing that Mario Wanza is his “slave name”. He compared Tjatjies Samekoms to the United Democratic Front (UDF) of the 1980s.
Mr Wanza said they had been writing to Public Works for years about their objectives. “But they are refusing to engage with us. Our culture dictates that the government isn’t our boss, it is our equal, but the way it operates is as if it is in control of us,” said Mr Wanza.
Among the handful of people outside the Manor House was Amelia September, the group’s spokeswoman. She said the gathering was not a protest but a “coming together of a divided people, rich and poor”.
She added: “They say we can’t gather and that indigenous people have access to land but they don’t say how, meanwhile we suffer.”
There was no sign of any law enforcement officials, only a group of security guards at the entrance to Porter Estate.
Ms September said indigenous people had been “dumped” in Manenberg (Tjatjies) on the Cape Flats under apartheid and today there were many poor people living there than what the area had been designed for in the 1960s.
Annie Meyburgh, of Manenberg, said there had been no movement on land issues in the past 25 years. “Instead we are given grants after standing in queues from early morning. Why?”
Mr Wanza said Tjatjies Samekoms had started a dialogue with the people of Constantia four years ago, and in October 2019, some Manenberg residents had toured Constantia.
“We undertook the tour as part of our restoration plan in which we return to the land as currently displaced indigenous people,” he said.
Mr Wanza said they had spoken with former land claimants about their objectives to find land in Constantia where they could live and integrate back into the Constantia community.
Ms September said it had been hard at the mall watching people drinking coffee, shopping and driving smart cars. “From this lavish lifestyle to living in the gutter on the Cape Flats where people skarrel to put a pot of food together. But we are not here to grab the land,” said Ms September. “We want to live, have jobs, be sustainable and contribute to society.”
Randal Yendor, from Manenberg, said the Cape Flats is a pressure cooker. “Our children will never realise their potential under these conditions,” he said.
John Neels, of Grassy Park, said a lot of land was available and people of different ethnicities and class groups wanted to live together. “It’s simple, but the government is a barrier to conversation,” he said.
Tanja Myburgh, of Constantia, said she felt privileged to live in the area. “The land belongs to you and you belong to the land. We must acknowledge your pain and dispossession,” she said.
Amanda Ramcharitar, of Kommetjie, said: “Indigenous cultures must come together to say we no longer give authority to these governmental bodies that have come and disrupted what was already in place. This is the time to make the change so that we all enjoy the land.”
Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association chairwoman Sheila Camerer said the association’s manager, John Henson, had written to Mr Wanza towards the end of last year, noting that the association’s constitution stopped it from getting involved in politics.
Groot Constantia CEO Jean Naude said Samekoms had met with them and shared their objectives, but the Groot Constantia Trust had a strict mandate under which to operate and its board had advised Samekoms to pursue its issues with relevant local, provincial and national government departments.
Ward 62 councillor Liz Brunette said he had met with about 10 Samekoms representatives one year ago. She had provided details about how to claim land or lease it. The group had visited the sub-council office again on Monday March 15 to hand out flyers.
The provincial Department of Transport and Public Works did not respond to emailed questions by deadline.
On Tuesday, Mr Wanza forwarded email correspondence from the personal assistant to Guy Redman, the chief director of cultural affairs, at the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, asking to meet on Friday April 9, at 10am, “to further engage on the issues and concerns that you have raised”.