Youth of the Gugulethu informal settlement change a once crime hotspot and dump site into a peaceful walkway
On the 24th of September 2022, African Monitor and Africa Unite in partnership with Gugulethu iThemba Walkway (Africa Unite, University of Cape Town: School of Architecture, Planning & Geomatics, Baz Art, Gugulethu Urban Farming Initiative, Open SDG Club South Africa, Atlantic Seaboard & Gugulethu Community Action Network (CAN), Community Police Forum (CPF), Gugulethu Urban Farming Initiative (GUFI), Nobantu Primary, School South Africa CSOs Working Group on SDGs), hosted an Heritage Day celebration that coincided with the Global Week of Action on Sustainability Development Goals (SGDs). Approximately 70 people from different communities attended the event. The main purpose of the event was to create awareness through educational programmes, dialogues, and other public activities on the importance of Heritage as a vehicle to foster social cohesion, national building, sustainable development, making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, and resilient (Goal 11 of the SDG’s). The day honoured those who dedicated and continue to dedicate their lives to ensure that the country achieves the freedom and democracy that all of us enjoy today.
Further, we had a Roundtable discussion on (SDGs) as part of the ongoing Global Week of Action on SDGs. The main discussion focused on goals 5,11, and 16. The Theme of the Roundtable was South Africa – you can flip the script and act now for Justice, Climate & Peace. The Roundtable on SDGs brought together different stakeholders including local decision-makers, young people, grassroots communities, women leaders, civil society, and media) to act towards delivering the Sustainable Development Goals in South Africa. We had four panellists in the discussion: The Councilor of Gugulethu, Mr. Thembinkosi Mjuza; A youth representative, Miss Siphokazi Sigade; A member of the Community Policing Forum, Mr. Linda Kabani and a representative of the Gugulethu Development Forum, Mr. Mzwandile Phambiso. The Roundtable was facilitated by Mr. Mongezi Tamana a community member of Gugulethu.
Gugulethu is a township 15 km away from Cape Town. The name is a contraction of igugu lethu, which is Xhosa for ‘Our Pride’. This township was established along with Nyanga in the 1960’s. The Group Areas Act (1950) reinforced the policy of land dispossession and segregation in South Africa. In accordance with the Act, many Africans, Coloured and Indian people from inner city areas were relocated to new suburbs, often far from their places of work. Africans were the first group of people to be subjected to forced relocation. The Native (Urban Areas) Act of 1923 provided that all Africans, other than those exempted, had to live in a location. As a result, townships like Gugulethu, Nyanga and Langa (in the Western Cape) emerged.
Mr. Mjuza did the welcoming at the event, he noted that it was good to see the gathering at the newly-cleared site to celebrate Heritage Day and raise awareness of the SDGs. “This is so great to see because the Walkway has been a crime hotspot and dump site and has now been transformed into this clean and colourful walkway, celebrating diversity and inspiring young people and the community at large”, Mr Mjuza added.
Siphokazi Sigade spoke on behalf of the youth of the community. She noted that the involvement of the youth from the community is essential to the success of the project. She also emphasised the fact that we must push to transform these walkways from all the negativity to form part of the many heritage sites in Gugulethu.
Linda Kabani noted that we are changing the narrative of the pathway because we know terrible things have happened on the pathway. Further, he highlighted the fact that from the first day the walkway was cleaned, it was not littered with or damaged again because of the community’s commitment.
Mzwandile Panziso shared his appreciation for the event organisers and the change that has happened in the walkway because the Walkway has been known for crime and negativity and has become an inspiration for many.
Other activities included among others painting messages of hope such as ‘INCLUSIVE SAFE SPACES’ on on the walkway’s walls a the iThemba Partnership logo, planting trees (citrus and peach tree at the Nobantu Primary School) to highlight issues of climate change and environmental protection; stunts that provide the occasion to flip defining words such as ‘Apathy’ to ‘Action’, ‘Fear’ into ‘Hope’, ‘Crime’ into ‘Peace’’ and highlighted the importance of the moment to turn in a new direction, illustrating that the power is in our hands to tell a new story and change the narrative. Further, there was an exhibition on the walkway, looking into the before and after pictures of the walkway and displaying the pictures taken over the period since the work began.
Lelethu Nogwavu, the Human Rights Project Development Officer at Africa Unite, closed off by explaining why this was being done before the tree’s planting. The trees were planted as part of Global Week and working towards achieving SDG’s. Ensure sustainable development and ending poverty especially in Townships. While Mr. Vuyani Qamata of the Gugulethu Urban Food Forest Initiative planted the citrus and peach tree, Lelethu explained that this was symbolic and a part of realising the SDG goals and ensuring sustainable development.
- The iThemba walkway needs to be maintained and cleaned regularly.
- The planting of fruit and veg trees should also be expanded to other schools and communities in Cape Town.
- We should expand the work done at the iThemba Walkway to other similar walkways.
- More paintings should be added to the walkway.