Africa Unite and the community of Laingville in dialogue

On the 17th of November 2020, Africa Unite held a conflict mediation dialogue with some of the community members from Laingville. The dialogue took place at St Helena Bay municipal hall, which is 155.9km outside of Cape Town. Social distancing was maintained, and everyone wore masks.

The facilitator engaging participants in the Laingville community dialogue

The purpose of the dialogue was to get insight into the community’s issues and find a way to deal with these challenges faced by this community.  These meetings are part of our community conflict mediation process, based on building a community’s grassroots capacity in conflict, building tolerance, and inclusive communities. The area has had several protests by the residents for service delivery, unemployment, and housing issues in the past. However, the death of a 9-year-old child (supposedly at the hands of riot police) has reignited protests from the communities of Laingville, where most social upheaval & protests have been taking place. Additionally, this has deepened the divide between the Coloured and Black communities, leading to tension and conflict.

This community dialogue took place in the presence of a municipal representative from the Saldanha Bay Municipality and community stakeholders from the Laingville region.

During the dialogue, community members had raised several issues;

LABOUR ISSUES: The people of Laingville are disgruntled because of the lack of employment opportunities. They also stated that nepotism plays a significant role in the community. Additionally, the community members expressed that there are no opportunities for the creation of local businesses. The participants felt that this would help the community develop as well as create employment. Furthermore, the community members stated that one of the only ways’ young women could gain favours or services are by having intimate relations with older men.

Proposed solutions:
• The Africa Unite team should conduct information sessions and skills development alongside other stakeholders such as the WCBDC (West Coast Business Development Centre) and the Saldanha Bay Municipality.
• Africa Unite can help facilitate peaceful dialogue between the community and stakeholders on creating a Business Development centre in Laingville.

YOUTH ISSUES: There is a lack of resources and programs for youth in the community. There is no community centre for youth to go to, and sports facilities such as the soccer field are inadequate. The community members feel like there is an unequal distribution of resources i.e. The rugby and cricket facilities are well developed and financed but the soccer and other indoor sports facilities are not designed for skills development. The community members expressed that the youth often turn to drugs and alcohol because there is nothing for them to do after school and during the holidays. There are no opportunities for engagement and development for young people.

Proposed solutions:
• More dialogue between the community and the municipality to build a community centre for the youth and to renovate the current soccer facilities should be conducted going forward.
• A task team elected by community members and the ward committee members should lobby with the Saldanha Bay municipality and the Western Cape Government to start implementing youth development programs and facilities for the Laingville/St Helena Bay region.

HOUSING: Community members in Laingville felt that an injustice was being done to them concerning social housing. To receive a house from the municipality, a household cannot earn more than R 3 500.00 as a combined household monthly in addition to this, you have to be under the age of 35 years old to receive or qualify for social housing, making it very difficult to receive support from the government. The community members stated that the last time the municipality-built houses was in 2002. The community members have tried on several occasions to reach out to the municipality and host meetings, however, without success. The communities feel that the municipality and Department of Housings are dividing the Coloured and Black communities to encourage conflict and destabilization in the area.

Proposed solutions:
• The Coloured and Black communities need to present a united front and present the issue of housing in one voice.
• The community needs to understand the local government structures’ roles and how to lobby with National and provincial government departments with issues such as housing.

WATER AND SANITATION: The community expressed that the sanitation and water facilities in the community were inadequate, to say the least. Nine taps service over 265 plots and raw sewerage are dumped into the streets. Additionally, community members said that toilets were not easily accessible, especially during winter. Community members have to walk a long distance to use ablution facilities, this is unsafe and often unsanitary, especially for women at night. These water and sanitation problems are becoming major health risks within the community, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Proposed solutions:
• More dialogue between community members and stakeholders to effectively communicate with the municipality needs to take place, to improve service delivery and water/sanitation facilities for the community of Laingville as well as host workshops to teach people proper sanitary and hygiene practices.

High School infrastructure: There are currently four primary schools in the area; however, there is no high school. The students must travel around 20 km to the nearest high school in Vredenburg. There is a plot of land that was initially dedicated to the construction of a high school. However, community members are frustrated that the municipality and State have yet to deliver on its promise of building an accessible High School in the area.

Proposed solutions:
• A cohort of community members (Black and Coloured) should engage the department of Education and the Saldanha Bay municipality to build a well-equipped and multi-lingual High School in the area.

Way forward:

To create a line of consistent communication between Africa Unite and the community of Laingville, a working group of ten members (Black and Coloured) was formed. This working group of community members will be responsible for following up on the proposed solutions made above and further engagements with the various stakeholders in the region.

Dialogue participants, stakeholders and AU team members after the discussion

Conclusion:

The community members were ultimately pleased and thankful that the Saldanha Bay Municipality sent a representative and provided a suitable venue and also grateful to Africa Unite for facilitating this process.

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