Outrage over sale of sportsfields
THE sale of two popular Phoenix sportsfields by eThekwini Municipality to a controversial property developer has infuriated community leaders.
They claim the sale was underhanded and concluded without consultation with the community.
The Eastbury and Ferndale grounds, which were previously leased to the South African Football Association’s (Safa) Phoenix branch, have been sold to Woodglaze Trading owner Jay Singh for the construction of houses.
Pravesh Inderjeeth, manager of Woodglaze Trading, said all properties developed and future developments had been cleared by the eThekwini Human Settlements Department. He confirmed the Fernham grounds would be used for the construction of houses.
“The Eastbury grounds will not be developed. However, clearance has been granted to develop the surrounding vacant areas,” said Inderjeeth.
He said sportsfields had been identified as unsafe spaces and the development of surrounding areas should be seen as a positive initiative.
Yesterday, Department of Parks and Recreation head Thembinkosi Ngcobo said the sale of the land had been completed many years ago when it was still zoned a special residential area.
Ngcobo said that in spite of the land being used for sporting activities it was never re-zoned a recreational facility, which was why the council opted to sell it.
DA MPL George Mari said the sale was concluded in 2008.
“Our biggest concern was that the city sold the land without consulting the community,” said Mari.
Safa Phoenix said its biggest concern was the future of football in a community already ravaged by crime and other social ills.
“We are disappointed. We pay an annual lease fee of R15 000 to the municipality for the use of their facilities.
“We will be losing the use of these two fields but the city has no alternate venues available for our use,” said Safa secretarygeneral Nancy Bridgemohun.
She said their association had been using the Eastbury grounds for about 45 years and it was one of their prime match venues. Ferndale was used largely as a training venue by their affiliated clubs.
Bridgemohun said she was informed about the sale two weeks ago, through a well-placed source at the municipality.
She said they were the biggest local football association in the Safa eThekwini region and had almost 4000 players under the age of 35 from Phoenix alone.
“About 15 years ago, the city spent R1 million on excavating the land near the Eastbury ground to build a stadium, but nothing has come of that.
“Previously, our cries for the city to install floodlights at Eastbury fell on deaf ears. We used money received from sponsorships and club registration fees to install the lights, which cost us R300 000.”
Bridgemohun said they accepted the loss of the money they had invested but their biggest worry was the impact the loss of sportsfields would have on children.
“Soccer teaches important lessons like discipline and teamwork,” she said.
Rainham Sporting’s chairman, Julian Moodley, said they had no objections to houses being built in the community but they opposed them being built on the sportsgrounds.
Phoenix Sporting’s head, Colin Peters, also disagreed with the sale.
Mohamed Shah of the Local Drug Action Committee said sport was a viable solution to prevent youngsters indulging in drugs and alcohol.
“For years we have been pushing for more sporting facilities, and even a stadium, to be built but nothing has been done. Currently we are faced with a massive problem with the large number of youngsters addicted to sugars (drugs) and turning to crime to feed their habits.”
Shah said if these sporting facilities were taken away it would leave youth with more time to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
The chairperson of the Phoenix Community Policing Forum, Umesh Singh, said while the loss of sport was a concern, the number of housing developments that popped up, and rapid growth of the Phoenix population, was also a concern.