South Africa: Ethekwini City Manager Extends Good Wishes
13 December 2007
Posted to the web 13 December 2007
The festive season is a time for all to think about those less fortunate than themselves, says ethekwini City Manager Mike Sutcliffe.
"During this festive season, no matter what our religious background, we are usually told to focus our thoughts on those less fortunate than ourselves," Mr Sutcliffe said in his regular newsletter.
"Those who are poor, hungry, without shelter are usually the first that we think about and pray for. But those who are discriminated against and abused, particularly women and children, also feature highly in our thoughts."
Mr Sutcliffe spoke of the ills of racism, sexism and xenophobia which still permeate our society and urged citizens to continually focus on ridding society of these problems, in order to build a truly free country.
"In my case, as City Manager of a city the size of eThekwini, every day I am reminded of the fact that the majority of our people are, in different ways, still disadvantaged, discriminated against and hurting from hunger, poverty and disease," he said.
"I find myself needing to care, but also have to deal with the concerns of those who prefer not to see the squalor, poverty and hurting or who have businesses that are negatively affected by vagrants living on the street."
Recent incidents, explained the city manager, highlight these contradictions.
"Our incredibly successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA Preliminary Draw also had the usual comments that we had cleared the streets of all street children.
"Certainly I checked with Metro Police who have been instructed by me that they cannot arrest and detain children and we did no such thing. In my neighbourhood, throughout the Draw, the same groups of some 20-30 street children continued to live on the street."
The city manager said these children continue to resist all attempts to provide them with support, despite the city’s best efforts.
"Businesses and many residents continue to ask me to clear them away and whilst we do provide as much social welfare support we can, they keep coming back."
Around the same time a group of residents had been evicted onto the street.
"It was late in the day and one of the terrible storms was pelting down on us. One person died and we were approached to provide tents to shelter these truly poor people.
"We did so, even though as a very short term measure but the surrounding residents did not see it that way and criticised us."
On Wednesday night, said Mr Sutcliffe, one of the city’s stormwater drains burst and over 50 shacks were washed away.
"We urgently put up a tent in a park and will provide sanitation on a temporary basis.
"We will, through our housing and other programmes, eventually ensure everyone has access to sanitation and shelter, but we cannot do that overnight. We are trying to be a caring city, but also recognise that has unintended consequences."
Mr Sutcliffe assured the eThekwini would continue to try its best to manage these contradictions, but further called on all who are advantaged to help the city’s management to find solutions.
"During this festive season let us all get recharged so that collectively we can work towards getting rid of the pain, hurt, humiliation, discrimination and abuse we have in our city.
"Let’s dedicate ourselves to loving our neighbours as we would have them love us. Let’s welcome in 2008 with open arms and do everything we can to bring peace, prosperity and love to all in our city, country and continent. All the best for 2008!"