In a welcomed move to implement the Steve Biko Precinct, a social housing project in Nelson Mandela Bay, the former detainees of the erstwhile Apartheid State Security Branch offices also known as the old Sanlam building, have come together to form a task team - displaying their full support for the building to be converted into a social housing project.
The former detainees and their families recently met with Social Housing Institution, Qhama along with the provincial department of Human Settlements and other relevant stakeholders at New Brighton's Nangoza Jebe Community Hall.
There, they interacted with the project plans to convert the building, located on Strand Street, into a multi-faceted and thriving social and rental housing project to recognise these struggle icons.
In an initial engagement session, the former detainees expressed their concerns and points of interest on the social housing instrument, project plans, reparations, social relief and assistance on community initiatives, encouraging another session to take place where issues can be addressed.
Consequently, a task team was formed where the former detainees and their families can have a mouth piece, ensuring issues are dealt with accordingly.
For this project to progress and be sustainable, it is important that we have a structure that will meet regularly and account to the masses, keep them informed of all the project elements and how the victims of the struggle will be assisted, said former Sanlam Building detainee and former PE Mayor, Ben Fihla.
The committee will be responsible to advise the Social Housing Institution, Qhama on the heritage component of the building which includes amongst other things the recognition of all the detainees.
The committee will also serve as a channel of communication between the former detainees or relatives with the provincial Department of Human Settlements, Qhama Social Housing Institution on the Steve Biko Social Housing Project; Link former detainees or relatives with other government departments for their concerns to be addressed and overall contribute to the research and development of heritage facilities of the Steve Biko Social Housing Project.
MEC Helen Sauls-August for Human Settlements has congratulated and thanked the stalwarts who have shown willingness to serve on the committee. The building has huge history and as a department, and Qhama social housing institution we want to preserve that history and recognise all those who were detained in the building in pursuit of freedom.
We will turn that former place of pain and horror into a living memorial for future generations to remember the history of that building.
The task team composed of Ben Fihla( Chairperson), Monde Nkewana(Deputy Chairperson) Prallene Botha(Deputy Secretary), Kunase Dlala(Secretary), and Andile Gotyana(organiser) will operate on an ad-hoc basis, until project completion.
Source: Government of South Africa