The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) hereby issues this statement to set the record straight on exactly what transpired in Helenvale on Tuesday 15th October 2013.
Through a Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) council mandate, the MBDA took on the responsibilities of what was then Helenvale Urban Renewal Programme (HURP) and along with it came the redevelopment of the old resource /community centre. Throughout this process the MBDA has received the support and cooperation of the Community of Helenvale. A development programme advisory committee (PAC) was also elected by the community to liaise directly with the MBDA on various aspects of the development in Helenvale, including the newly developed Helenvale Resource Centre. The community of Helenvale has up to now never protested against the developments championed by the MBDA and the launch of the Centre on Tuesday 15th October was no different.
It is misleading to report that the community of Helenvale were “irate” at the MBDA as the sub heading reads “Irate residence take shine off celebrations” [Referring to a report in The Herald]. This statement is meant to create the impression that the people of Helenvale led these demonstrations or they actively orchestrated them. It was in fact a small group of SMMEs of less than 50 that arrived during the proceedings and who were not representative of the local community. The community members that were on their way to attend and support the opening of the Helenvale Resource Centre found themselves in the midst of a small group of SMME’s near the main gate.
- The majority of the leaders of this SMME group are not residents of Helenvale or surrounding areas
- Nearly 2000 Helenvale Community members embraced this launch event in a peaceful manner
- There was no disturbance to the any part of the proceedings inside the main hall (600 people) or the tent (1200 people)
- 200 school children from Helenvale participated at this event, including singing the National Anthem
- More than 50 Helenvale artists performed at this event as part of the entertainment programme
- 50 Volunteers from non-governmental organisations in Helenvale participated as marshals
- All the invitations and flyers distributed by the MBDA and PAC made no mention of food as an enticement
- No member of the community was going to be turned away unless it was for safety reasons (space)
It is then difficult to understand how one media title chose to focus on a side show, an attention seeking business group dominated by people from outside Helenvale and make as though they represented the views of the entire community. It is difficult to fathom how the event got “marred” as one headline put it, when every planned item on the agenda went according to the plan, uninterrupted. The MBDA management team dealt with the small group of SMME’s quickly and swiftly through talking and engaging and in the end, they ended up having a meal and agreed to a follow up meeting.
It is sad for one media tittle to be completely hijacked by an attention seeking business and profit generating group and take focus away from the real people of Helenvale and their moment of celebration and pride. To quote one elderly person “We have shed blood during apartheid to see a development like this and we never thought we’d see this day come true”. That is the story of the 15th of October in Helenvale, pity it was never told.
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