DA leader Steenhuisen slated for post-looting visit
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DURBAN - PHOENIX organisations have slammed DA leader John Steenhuisen’s visit to the area, saying he was divisive and had excluded most organisations which were already rebuilding.
Steenhuisen and his party held a media briefing in Phoenix on Tuesday and launched a programme to unite, rebuild and protect communities throughout the province who were shattered by the unrest and looting that rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng three weeks ago.
Sham Maharaj, from All People of KZN, said it was a pity that the DA came in so late on the matter.
“Steenhuisen has excluded most community organisations. He has picked and chosen who he wants to work with. He is just dividing the community,” Maharaj said.
He accused the DA leader of leaving out people and organisations who were central to the relief programmes in the area.
“We commend Police Minister Bheki Cele for coming in early. Where was Steenhuisen all this time? He has just showed up and is further dividing the community,” said Maharaj.
Reniel Reddy, from All Lives Matter, said they were also not part of the DA rebuilding programme. “Our organisation is composed of community members who came together. We want peace, harmony and unity among all races. We do not want to compromise what has been achieved so far,” Reddy said.
He said that while they welcomed support, they were careful not to politicise their organisation.
Alice Govender, a Phoenix community activist, said she was denied entry into the meeting.
“I was told that I am not allowed in the meeting because it was for the ward 52 Exco and the DA leadership. I stood at the gate until the meeting was finished,” she said.
Steenhuisen said three weeks after the events, it was still hard to come to terms “with the sheer scale of the devastation and plunder”.
“It is critical that justice is done – and seen to be done – for not only the looters and instigators, but also those who failed in their constitutional duty to protect citizens.”
He said there had to be consequences for the damage and loss of lives and livelihoods.
“We cannot allow those responsible to simply walk away from it, and this will require a considered and transparent analysis, not a cover-up.”
He said it was important to pick up the pieces in the damaged communities and bring people together around the task of putting broken buildings, businesses and lives back together again.
“What this province certainly does not need and cannot afford is the kind of crass racial baiting and scapegoating that we have seen from parts of the ANC and the EFF since the unrest.”
He warned that nobody won when hatred and blame were whipped up by politicians eager to score political mileage from the chaos, just as nobody won when more businesses were destroyed and more jobs were lost forever.
“Now, through our project to unite, rebuild and protect our communities, we will take advantage of this momentum by extending an invitation to all role-players and influential voices to join us in these efforts.”
He said what the DA had seen in affected communities was that the desire to build was far greater than the desire to destroy.
“But in order to be effective, the builders need to find each other and become organised. Our DA councillors throughout the province will be calling meetings with stakeholders in their wards to discuss all issues relating to service delivery and safety in an effort to better protect these communities.”
He said the meetings would bring together traditional leaders, religious leaders, neighbourhood watches, ratepayer associations, community policing forums and any other significant voices of leadership in these communities.
“On the agenda will be service delivery steps that must be taken to improve safety, as well as discussions around ways to strengthen social cohesion and stamp out the poisonous narrative of racial scapegoating,” he concluded.