Is this the biggest news in Knysna’s history since colonialists sadly realised that there were trees to be chopped and elephants to be shot in our forests?
“We are going to make sure that there is schooling, facilities for a clinic, police station, recreational facilities, to make sure that people enjoy the kind of decent life that everybody else around enjoys. Knysna is very well known as a holiday destination. You come to Knysna and what you find is beauty around. You except where the black people live and that cannot be right , 21 years down the line.” – Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu
Yesterday, the ANC-led national government of South Africa swooped into the small town of Knysna on the wings of blue lights, pausing to fetch some of the DA councillors that lead the town. For DA Speaker Eleonor Bouw-Spies, it must have been an odd feeling as she, once upon a time, was the ANC’s mayor.
Leading the charge were Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu and Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters.
Minister Sisulu promised to make this a national priority project with the first phase been 500 houses, a police station, school and business centre.The housing development would include rental accommodation, Breaking New Ground (BNG) houses and bonded houses.
The project is made possible by the transfer of 72 hectares of land from SANRAL (South African National Roads Agency), who had originally earmarked it for the never having come to fruition N2 bypass. “My department cannot sit on the land and do nothing while people live in squalor conditions”, said Minister Peters.
What isn’t clear is exactly where this land is though possibly in the suburb of Khayalethu where the meeting was held.
Human Settlements hopes to acquire another 200 hectares and, according to DA Councillor Peter Myers, build 10 000 homes in total, substantially reducing the 12 000 houses backlog.
The internet is abuzz with opinions, some seeing this as an election ploy.
Knysna will be a political background between the DA and ANC in the forthcoming municipal elections. With the addition of a new ward in a predominantly black area, it was expected that the ANC would win the town back with two new councillor posts. However, the move by the DA to include COPE Councillor, Elrick van Aswegen, as a member of their Mayoral Committee (effectively kicking out one of their own), is seen by many, including this writer, as their attempt to balance the scales. Additionally, ICOSA, a party mainly champing the rights of coloured people, the largest demographic, stands a chance to win a seat or more. Further indicating the madness of the elections to come is that Neville Korkee was booted out of ICOSA but is now running for the ANC. ICOSA’s biggest gun is Alan Kock, previously a Knysna mayor and now ICOSA’s Western Cape organiser.
Over the past 3 months, the town of Knysna has been embroiled in scandal after scandal, local politicians refusing to act, making it seem as if its the public versus all the parties currently in office.
It is expected that Knysna, a town seemingly forgotten by politicians of all parties and now suddenly back on the map, will have high ranking DA members visiting too.
However, giving people a roof over their heads will be a very hard act to follow. It would be interesting to discover if the DA (considering the 1250 election posters that they’re currently erecting for a population of 68 000) will respond with something more substantial than a bigger advertising budget.