Ou­trage over sale of sports­fields

Post - - FRONT PAGE - CHARLENE SOMDUTH

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.

Big­gest con­cern

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.

Drugs

“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.

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