St. Theresa’s unwanted “Central Business District” adventure.

On the 17th of April 2012, something surprising happened in Queenstown’s Scanlen Street in front of the St. Theresa’s Church premises. Since a couple of months, a building company works day and night on the old show grounds, where an ultra modern shopping center raises out of the ground like a mushroom.

Some years ago, Coca Cola donated some corrugated iron hawker stalls and placed them exactly there, where now one of the walls of the new mall is erected.

It’s quite understandable that the owners of that new business center did not want to have those shacks in their immediate vicinity, where people most probably would make fire by cold weather and convert the whole wall also into a big toilet….

So, the municipality was alerted and reacted immediately by removing the shacks from their old place towards their new destination, nl. in front of the St. Theresa’s Church premises, and that without giving us any notice. In placing the shacks, they did not even see the sliding gate  blocking every possible entrance. The hawkers restarted immediately their business, and in a fraction of time, the place was overcrowded with buses, taxis, bakkies and a lot of people converting the street into an old fashioned market place. Father Ludwe Jayiya, the priest in charge of old St. Theresa’s, got the choc of his life when he saw what happened: a blocked entrance, no parking place for the congregation, a street which became at once to narrow and a noisy crowd making a nuisance to the private school adjacent to the Mission.

He alarmed the municipality and they sent Mr Gideon Judeel, the man in charge for that whole operation to see what really happened. He had a nice story to tell: the municipality would now pave the place where the shacks stood, and once this was done, the shacks would return to their old place. All what he asked from us was a little bit of “patience”…. Father Tratsaert, who wrote already two articles in the local newspaper about the lamentable state in which the Municipality left Scanlen Street, joined also the discussion, giving Mr. Judeel hell about the way the whole operation was performed. In spite of the presence of a big Mission station, a big church and a non unimportant school since about 85 years, the Queenstown Municipality considered Scanlen Street always as a kind of a dumping place. The fact that the whole operation was executed without any consultation with the Church, showed clearly what the attitude of the municipal officials is towards the Catholic Church. Father Tratsaert asked him also what his reaction would be if the Municipality would place those shacks in front of his house without asking and without any comment…

Once he started to realise what kind of blunder he had made, Mr Judeel became softer, and at that moment Father Jayiya jumped in and proposed the relocation of the shacks on a piece of empty ground immediately in the vicinity of a taxi range. The relocation would happen either in the afternoon of the same day or early in the morning of the next day….

The street meeting ended and we just waited to see what would happen, and….believe it or not, but the very same day in the afternoon, heavy machinery arrived and the “informal central business district” was removed towards the place which gave satisfaction to all the parties involved.

We have nothing against the hawkers: they are mostly good people, who just, like everybody else, have to earn their daily bread, but we have something against a category of municipal officials considering themselves as half gods, thinking they just can do what they want.

Father Edward Tratsaert SAC