Letters September 6 to 12 2013

Manenberg pupils have taken the lead in combating violence. (David Harrison, M&G)

Manenberg pupils have taken the lead in combating violence. (David Harrison, M&G)

Save kids from politics

On behalf of the pupils from Manenberg who are part of the Rock Girl Safe Spaces campaign, I am writing to agree whole­heartedly with your ­article "Manenberg gang violence: Our rights have been taken away"  (August 15).

Since 2010, the grade seven and eight girls and boys at the Red River Primary School in Manenberg, along with their teachers and parents, have been working to create a safer school. In August that year, the girls were unable to participate in after-school activities because the gangsters on the sports field teased and threatened them. Instead of blaming someone else, and tired of waiting for the government to fulfil its long-neglected promise to build a new school, these girls, and some boys, decided to take action.

Red River was built 40 years ago with the promise that it would be demolished and replaced with a permanent structure in three years' time.
Last year, the MEC of education again promised to begin construction on a new school in January 2013 but in June of this year he again delayed it indefinitely.

First on the list of those campaigning for safety was a safe space to sit when they felt unsafe, because gangsters could walk freely across the school grounds. With the help of Rock Girl, the children created the first safe-space bench at their school, inspiring a citywide campaign that has led to over 30 safe-space benches, including several officially unveiled by Mayor Patricia de Lille.

The students then created an after-school art room and a new library, and planted trees, painted walls and classrooms, removed vagrants from the girls' toilets and began meeting regularly with artists, teachers, musicians and community leaders to gain the skills and confidence to help themselves.

After almost three years of requests to the department of education, a secure fence was finally built around the school in March this year.

These young girls and boys, who live, play and study in one of the most dangerous communities in South Africa, have done everything in their own power to make their school safer.

The teachers and administrators, and many private individuals and corporations, have supported their efforts.

But those in power, from all political parties, at both the provincial and national level, have not been there for these children. Instead of coming together to end the violence created by the gangs, those who are responsible for the safety of these pupils, their teachers and families are blaming each other.   

The situation has been turned into a political battleground, leaving these young people in the line of fire.

Instead of politically charged marches to cast stones at one another, Rock Girl and the pupils of Manen­berg plead with those in leader­ship roles to stop fighting and begin working together to end the violence.  

There is no short-term, quick-fix answer. What is required is to follow the example of the learners from Red River, to work across the divides of gender, age, race and political parties to create safe spaces, after-school programmes, economic opportunities and skills and leadership training – slowly extending these corridors of safety, and holding one another and those who violate the law accountable for their actions.

Last year, Rock Girl took 45 girls from Manenberg on a weekend leadership camp. On the last day, when asked why she was staring at the sky, a 12-year-old answered: "Because I never see the sky in Manenberg."

Everyone has the right to see the sky – no one has the right to darken the sky with gunfire the way the gangs have done. Rock Girl urges all Capetonians and all South Africans to honour the example set by these courageous young people and make this community safe for all. – India Baird, Rock Girl


What flag will NPA boss fly?

In the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, the appointment of Mxolisi Nxasana as the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will be welcomed; the legal community will accept his appointment cautiously.

When Menzi Simelane was discredited and Stanley Gumede, another candidate, exposed as facing 12 charges of misconduct, the president had to look for a KwaZulu-Natalian whose loyalty would be unquestionable, like that of Simelane and Nomgcobo Jiba. He joins other KwaZulu-Natalians in the security cluster, such as Jeff Radebe, Nathi Mthethwa, Siyabonga Cwele, Willies Mchunu and Michael Hulley.

Nxasana is a replacement for Gumede. He is a friend of Hulley and Mandla Gcaba and has represented many members of organised crime in court, which is not illegal but raises eyebrows.

Jacob Zuma has Jiba as his proxy in the NPA. She could not be appointed permanently because he had given her husband a "presidential" pardon. Jiba saved Mike Mabuyakhulu and Peggy Nkonyeni – both Zuma die hards – from prosecution in the "Amigos" trial, despite evidence that R5-million was collected from Gaston Savoi and the ANC received R1-million.

Time will tell whether Nxasana is on Zuma's side or on the side of the Constitution, which should see the NPA prosecuting without fear or favour. A test will come in the pro-secution of Johan Booysen and the Cato Manor policemen accused of acting as a hit squad. – Thobani Sigananda


Birnam patisserie's Cro-magnum opus is hardly new

Laurice Taitz, in the Friday article about the "Cronut", says: "As far as we know ... is a South African first." I wanted to let you know that it's not a South African first. I've had it on my menu since the craze was "unleashed" in the United States and featured on CNN Business by Richard Quest.

I keep a very low profile and specialise in "made to order" food and pastries. I've introduced the canelé, a French pastry originating from the Bordeaux region, which is fabulous with all types of wine, champagne and coffee. – Nadine Waner, thetart.com

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