Park aims to eradicate drug use and bring neighbours together
THERE was excitement and jubilation in the air as the recently refurbished Ekhaya Park in Hillbrow was unveiled by the member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for community development, Nonhlanhla Sifumba, on Wednesday.
The unveiling was done as part of the city’s World Environment Week celebrations.
The R1.4 million refurbishment included the installation of a full-size synthetic soccer field, a new ablution block, park furniture embedded with a chess board and table tennis, a themed playground for toddlers, landscaped lawns and murals.
With Hillbrow becoming a well-known hub for drugs and crime, the City of Joburg hopes that such initiatives will create a safe space for children and families alike.
“I drove in here today and it took me back to the days when Hillbrow, was the place to be,” Sifumba said.
“I want those days back, when we could safely dance the night away without being accosted on the street, or have a wedding down the road in Joubert Park, or watch the children play without a care in the world, in the neighbourhood parks,” she said.
“We have a few more years to go before we can restore our inner city spaces and transform them into multifunctional, well managed, green, clean and safe parks. However, as I stand here, in the newly-refurbished Ekhaya Park, surrounded by high-rise buildings and together with a dedicated community that is committed to reclaiming our spaces – I have hope,” Sifumba emphasised.
Sifumba made it clear that developing safe parks is also a complex issue that must be thought through from the design phase, together with community involvement; supporting maintenance programmes and regular recreation activities.
“Park safety is of paramount importance for Joburg’s City Parks and the Zoo (JCPZ), who are responsible for the maintenance of the facility, however it requires the need for communities to become closely involved in the parks’ everyday use and protection, to ensure that these spaces are sustained,” she said.
JCPZ said that the local subcontractors involved in both projects created jobs for six-months, with a total number of 13 small, medium and micro-sized enterprises, 16 expanded public works programmes and 12 beneficiaries being empowered from the local community during the construction process.
The fully-enclosed, newly-developed park is a welcome sight for residents living in the towering highrise apartments adjacent to the new park.
“The luxury of sprawling open spaces to enable communities to connect with nature, and to bring residents together, are non-existent due to low-cost inner city densification in Hillbrow and its surrounding areas. It is therefore critical that the spread of urban degeneration is averted in the parks in the inner city,” Sifumba highlighted.
As we mark World Environment Week, Sifumba said that we are reminded why parks are as important, especially in Hillbrow where we do not have the luxury of private gardens.
“These spaces bring us in contact with nature and with our neighbours, It’s a meeting place for our teenagers and it will allow our children to play rather than staying glued to a TV. Over the last few years I have witnessed how new facilities such as Atwell Gardens were vandalised – however I have also witnessed that no matter what the state of a park and the drug infested Pullinger Kop bears testimony to that – that it can be reclaimed for the use of children,” she added.
Sifumba commended the Ekhaya Neighbourhood Improvement District for establishing a forum with business, Bad Boyz Security, local schools, SAPS, JCPZ and the community to reclaim the park, which was beset with problems of grime, petty crime, vandalism and substance abusers, and acknowledged their outstanding contribution by presenting the forum with an award for exceptional service to the community. @Lanc_02
DEVELOPMENT: The brand new, themed playgrounds for children and toddlers.
MMC for Community Development Nonhlanla Sifumba taking part in a ceremonial tree planting at the launch of the newly refurbished Ekhaya Park. Picture: Supplied
The newly installed full size synthetic soccer field at the recently refurbished Ekhaya Park in Hillbrow. Picture: Supplied