KNYSNA NEWS - Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen was unwittingly suddenly in high demand for an unsettling few seconds at what was otherwise a peaceful public meeting in Knysna last week.
The meeting between Hornlee community group Knysna United, the municipality, and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) was suddenly dominated by a single citizen who seemed intent on upsetting the, some would say, already rickety applecart by vociferously insisting on the presence of Nissen – who was not in attendance.
He stormed forward from the back of the hall riding his chair like a bronco and yelling "Ek soek Chris Nissen. Chris Nissen. Chris Nissen. Chris Nissen! (I want Chris Nissen!)" before bumping his way back from his initial default position and lifting his chair to aim a throw – but his missile was grabbed by another person from behind and the man was removed scuffling and fighting from the hall.
Once ejected, the meeting went ahead as planned, and everybody quickly forgot the incident, focusing instead on the serious business at hand.
Back to business
After a fairly unstable relationship between Knysna United (formerly Hornlee United) and the municipality over the past couple of months, balance seems to have been restored following the generally positive meeting held on 31 July at the Hornlee Civic Centre.
This most recent gathering, facilitated by the Western Cape HRC, was a means to provide feedback to the community regarding talks between the civic group and the municipality.
The HRC has become embroiled as it is conducting an investigation into allegations made by Knysna United against the municipality.
The three parties had already met earlier in the day to discuss what would be disclosed during the public meeting so that all would be on the same page – a positive symbol of the cohesive relationship that has seemingly developed between the municipality and Knysna United.
In attendance for the municipality was municipal manager Dr Sitembele Vatala and deputy mayor Aubrey Tsengwa who was acting mayor on the evening as mayor Mark Willemse was too unwell to attend.
Singing the same song
Programme director Alan Kock opened the evening, highlighting how the relationship between the municipality and Knysna United has strengthened, and adding, "We will continue to all sing from the same hymn sheet."
Speaking on behalf the HRC, Lwethu Yoli, mic in hand, was quick to reassure the community they are making progress in their investigation, but also pointing out that relations have been good between the parties. He reminded the community that the HRC is not a politically driven organisation, and that they would continue to keep an eye on the situation. He emphasised how important it is for the community to hold both the municipality and Knysna United to any promises made by them, to hold them responsible if they do not. "They (the municipality) are 'dutied' by the Constitution to have a people's approach," Yoli said.
'We still want houses'
Ralph Stander, Knysna United chair, spoke after Yoli and drew loud applause when he highlighted that Vatala and Tsengwa are born-and-bred Knysnarians who have helped fortify communications between them and the municipality. But he did warn that they are not done fighting. "We still want houses, we still want land, and the municipality has given us hope with plans to build in our community."
During Vatala's energetic speech next up, amid several rounds of applause from the community, he said, "We are trying to move forward, to work towards changing the face of Hornlee, and we are turning the corner, let's focus on that." He pointed out that emergency housing has been greenlit for Hornlee, and that 155 houses are in the pipeline.
Vatala also promised that 30% of the tender contract – worth more than R200-million, according to him – would stay within Hornlee by involving local contractors.
Tsengwa was last to speak, and said he was grateful for the community coming out in numbers to hear what the parties had to say, and reassured them that action would be taken. "The things that have been discussed are going to happen," he said.
'We bring you the latest Knysna, Garden Route news'