Manenberg residents fear certain schools in the area could be closed down or merged to make way for the new multi-billion rand GF Jooste Hospital.
This comes just months after Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo confirmed that the provincial Department of Health had secured land for the hospital project.
In April, Mbombo wouldn’t disclose the location of the site for the 550-bed regional hospital, citing she wanted to avoid unnecessary objections.
On Friday, Fareed Jansen, chairman of the governing body of Silverstream High and the unified governing body forum of Manenberg, said that last year Silverstream was told by an official not to take in new Grade 8s.
But he said the governing body was opposed to this, fearing no new intake of pupils would eventually lead to the school’s closure.
Jansen said this year a different education official had visited the school with a notice informing the principal that consideration was being given to the possible closure of the school.
He said the notice was not addressed to the governing body and was not printed on an official Western Cape Education Department letterhead.
This official indicated that in terms of the plans for the area “they are building a nice hospital here”.
Jansen said when he questioned this with the department, he was told the department was not aware of any such notification.
He said other schools in the area had also indicated that an official had spoken to them informally about the possibility of mergers or closure.
Western Cape Education Department spokesman Paddy Attwell said the official concerned “did not have the mandate for these discussions”.
“The City has embarked on a Manenberg Rejuvenation Project and is working with the community on a new vision for the suburb. Education should form part of any urban renewal programme and we will work with all role players to realise this vision.”
He said the department and the Department of Basic Education were also replacing so-called “plankie” schools in the province, including schools in Manenberg.
Although she wouldn’t give details about where the land secured for the site was situated, in April Mbombo said the land was big enough to build a hospital in Manenberg.
She admitted the builders would probably have to demolish some buildings before beginning construction because there was no land big enough to build a hospital.
“Our engineers and architects are already looking into it, conceptualising what the hospital needs to have and what it needs to look like,” she said.
When asked about the latest developments last week, Mbombo’s spokesman Luyanda Mfeka wouldn’t deny or confirm whether the hospital would be built on the site of Silverstream High School.
“The department’s negotiations for a suitable site for GF Jooste remain ongoing.
“As we have said before, we will only be in a position to effectively communicate once that process is finalised. We are not able to comment on education-related matters as this is outside of our mandate as a department.”
Byron la Hoe, a spokesman for the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works, said the site for the regional hospital that would replace GF Jooste Hospital, had not yet been confirmed.
“The media will be informed as soon as this has been confirmed, as well as plans for any areas of Manenberg falling within the urban renewal programme.”
He said the urban renewal programme was in the planning phase.
Meanwhile, the Manenberg Health Committee’s Christine Jansen has raised concerns about the prospects of demolishing schools in the area to make way for the hospital, saying bulldozing schools wouldn’t resolve the health problems in the area.
She said the committee would only support the demolition of a school if arrangements to rebuild the school at the existing GF Jooste Hospital site were made.
“We are concerned that GF Jooste Hospital has been closed down and people of Manenberg now have to travel far to seek health services. We desperately need a new hospital and we are prepared to have the school demolished provided that the government is prepared to simultaneously build a new school on the existing hospital site. Although we want to benefit on a healthcare level, we don’t want it to deprive our children on education level.”
Jansen said the residents didn’t want a situation where a school would be demolished and the rebuilding delayed, “like what happened to the existing GF Jooste building”.
She also raised unhappiness about the secrecy surrounding the new site.
“We don’t understand all this secrecy. It is not helping at all. It just fuels speculation about the building plans. Why is there no community involvement in the plan to rebuild the hospital? We are in the dark, as much as we want the hospital, we don’t know how it will affect our children’s education.”
It is not the first time news about negotiations between the Department of Health and the Education department concerning the new hospital has come to the fore.
Two years ago, then MEC for Health Theuns Botha said land that was previously earmarked for the Department of Education was being considered as an alternative site for the new hospital.
The hospital has been in the headlines since 2012 when the news of its looming closure was leaked by the SA Medical Association (Sama).
Several interest groups later expressed their dissatisfaction about the move, citing it would “leave a vacuum in health services” in the Klipfontein region and overburden new hospitals in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.
The hospital was one of the busiest hospitals on the Cape Flats, catering for about 80 000 patients a year and servicing more than a million people.
Jansen said a meeting with residents was held in April to inform them of their constitutional rights in terms of school closures.
“The residents’ feelings were clear: nobody is going to close schools in Manenberg without their permission and they want their hospital back.”
He said the uncertainty about the future of the schools was causing pupils to feel demotivated.