HISTORY OF THE MANENBERG PEOPLE'S CENTRE
In 1985/86 and prior many activists were detained in the Manenberg and the broader Cape Flats areas. The affected families were traumatized and no counseling support was available to them. To the activist very few venues was made available for community mobilization. Many thanks to the Moravian church for availing their crèche facility in Thames Avenue ,the Catholic Church , the Anglican Church , the NG church and the mosques in the area.
In 1985 at the area committee (a forum for all the progressive organizations in the area) the idea of establishing an organization was born. This organization’s primary aim would be to raise the necessary funds to build a centre that would meet the needs of the community. The following organizations constituted the first MPC board namely Manenberg Civic Association, Call of Islam, Manenberg Ministers Fraternal, Youth Forum, Heideveld Congregational Church and the Manenberg Advice Office. The Manenberg Peoples’ Centre was thus established in 1986 as an apolitical organization. Its members are free to belong to a political party of their choice.
Initially the thought was that the building would serve as a counseling centre. The vibrant youth opposed this idea and said that the building must serve a broader need of the community. For this reason the very first community participatory research concept in the country was embarked upon.
The department of Anthropology of University of the Western Cape (UWC) and University of Cape Town (UCT) was asked to assist. Students from both universities jointly worked on the project. Community members volunteered to be trained to do the door to door sample research. The community was always informed via graphic flyers throughout the various stages of the researched. The final outcome of the research findings was also shared with the community.
The design of the building was then based on the research findings. The architect Siegfried Wiid was engaged to do the conceptual drawings. The fundraising for the construction of the building was done by using these concept plans.
The first project funding for a research coordinator was provided by Oxfam UK and Hilda Petersen was employed in this position. Robin Petersen was employed as the fund raiser for the building construction cost. The building cost was provided by EZE in Germany and The Congregational Church in the USA.
After the results of the research was finalized various existing NGOs was approached to render projects and services that was identified by the research. MAPP provided music, CAP (Cape Arts Project) arts and crafts, CEGS (computer training) Manenberg Civic Association (housing related issues) Manenberg Advice Office (paralegal services and labour related issues). All these organizations occupied office space at the opening of the building and operated on their own budgets.
The building was built by Slingsby and De Jagger and the official opening was on 1st March 1991 by the people of Manenberg.
Over the years the funding to the organizations who occupied space ran dry and the organizations closed down. Their closure left a vacuum in the services which was rendered to the community. This void was often filled by the MPC without the necessary funding.
Over the years the MPC has supported emerging organizations and coordinating structures. This support was either in the form of free office space and assistance with resources. The MPC has also allowed our staff to build and strengthen these organizations. We pride ourselves in the role we have played in this regard in the Manenberg Health Committee, Manenberg Development Coordinating Structure (MDCS), Manenberg and District Community Police Forum (CPF) and the Mayoral Urban Renewal Project (MURP)
We cannot deny the role the MPC has played in shaping the political scope of the country. It was the first community built multi - purpose centre. The processes and research was historical as a first of its kind. The lessons learnt throughout the years is never to under estimate /under value the knowledge /skills of impoverished communities