Hunger striker protesting against Chapman’s Peak toll plaza and office block vows to continue

Cape Argus
JANELLE SCHROEDER
Staff Reporter

A WOMAN on a hunger strike since Sunday, in protest at the new Chapman’s Peak toll plaza and office block construction, has vowed to continue her vigil.

Bronwen Lankers-Byrne, who turns 60 next month, has positioned herself on the side of the road, just opposite the construction site. With a folding chair, signs, a petition for signatures and lots of water, she said she would stay “until they put down the tools and talk transparently about alternative options”.

“They’ve used the existing toll plaza for eight years and that’s sufficed,” said Lankers-Byrne. “It’s unnecessary. Why should we waste R25 million of taxpayers’ money?”

Since Sunday, she has arrived at the site at 7am and stayed until 7pm, when she goes home to rest, check e-mails and prepare her body for another day without food.

She’s had a headache for three days, felt nauseous and has noticed her body becoming weak.

“Going up the dunes this morning (yesterday) was quite a challenge,” said Lanker-Byrne.

She estimated that she’d already lost between 2kg and 3kg.

The Chapman’s Peak protest in April 2009, prompted by a lengthy road closure, planted the strike seed for Lankers-Byrne.

“I thought then, over my dead body will they build a plaza,” she said.

She said she felt so strongly about the issue that she had no other choice. “It’s a nutshell of what’s happening in SA at our expense. The government is building what we don’t want with our money.”

Visitors have brought her water and flowers and signed the petition against the construction. Lankers-Byrne said she estimated the petition, online and on paper, had gathered 5 000 signatures.

“About 80 percent of my visitors have read about and support the cause,” said Lankers-Byrne. “And once I explain it, they say: ‘Give me the board, I’ll sign’.”

With 10 000 signatures, she would present it to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to say “the people have spoken”.

An hour into her protest on Sunday, she said Zille rode by on her bicycle and asked for Lankers-Byrne’s phone number.

“After 40 days you die,” said Lankers-Byrne in reference to her body going without food.

“But I can’t see Helen Zille letting me die here.”

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