A whites-only settlement near the South African capital is at the center of a row, as Pretoria’s Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa seeks to open its gates to people of any race or culture. If talks don’t succeed, the mayor plans to take the issue to the country’s constitutional court.
Tshawane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa has told residents of the white enclave Kleinfontein that while they have a right to live as they please, as stipulated under article 235 of the constitution, they should ensure they do not infringe on the rights of other citizens.
Article 21 of the constitution stated that “every citizen has the right to enter, to remain in and to reside anywhere in the republic,” he said.
The mayor visited Kleinfontein, a cultural community in the southeast of the city, for the first time on Wednesday.
Ramokgopa arrived with an entourage of city officials – including Tshwane Manager Jason Ngobeni and metro Police Chief Steven Ngobeni – mayoral committee members and Freedom Park Trust representatives to meet the people who live in Kleinfontein.
The visit was intended to discuss the residents’ application for Kleinfontein to be declared an independent town, and to enable the mayor to learn about the community – which turns 21 this year.
“We are so glad. We’ve been trying to get the mayor here for more than a year,” said Marisa Haasbroek, volunteer spokeswoman for Kleinfontein, as residents waited anxiously outside the community hall for his arrival.
Jan Groenewald, chairman of the Kleinfontein board, welcomed the mayor and confirmed the community’s willingness to cooperate with authorities.
The community had the capabilities to look after and provide for itself within the confines of the law, and they wished to formalize the informal settlement, he said.
Groenewald assured the council that the community was not a “destabilizing force” and did not intend to divide the city.
Using an Afrikaner analogy, he said the community was like General Koos de la Rey from the Second South African War.
“Like De la Rey, we want peace. We do not want war,” he said, adding they wished to retain possession of their “homestead.”
Ramokgopa said his intention on Wednesday was to have a conversation with the community.
“We did not come to close you down. We came to talk about your aspirations as a community.”
The mayor said the city aimed for “democracy through diversity” and welcomed the rich heritage of the Afrikaner people.
He also welcomed the community’s self-sufficiency and said he was grateful they took developments into their own hands.
All people in the country had to abide by the constitution, Ramokgopa said.
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