The City of Cape Town has said it will work with the community of Mitchells Plain to replenish the depilated sports fields in the area, to combat the rising crime in the area.
With crime and gang violence being rife in Cape Town, children are often urged to keep occupied with other activities such as sport to stay off the streets and productive. But the community of Mitchells Plain previously said their calls for proper maintenance on several fields have fallen on deaf ears.
Special mention is made of the Lenteguer sports field which is big enough to host several sporting codes at the same time. But community activist Shahien Van Neilson says it is barren.
“It cannot be used at all for sport, even the parking lot is used for burning tyres and things like that. A cricket pitch, three soccer fields, two rugby fields, a baseball pitch- that’s just lying dormant! Nothing can be played there and the City is not interested.”
Van Nielson explained that because children are not being productive, gangsters take the opportunity to keep them busy… with crime.
“Then we ask ourselves why we have so many social ills in our community. Its because the local government is not looking after the sport complexes.”
Van Neilson also explained that the added burden of travelling elsewhere makes the children despondent.
“Mitchells plain has a population of more than a million and is (like) 40 years old, if not more, but we don’t even have an athletics track. Our schools in our area have to pay busses to go play sports outside of (the area) which place a burden on the parents. Which means even if they want to they have to pay for transport.”
He noted that communication with the City has been minimal.
“I’ve engaged with the Collisions rugby club as they were the only ones who tried to use that sport field. They’ve tried to engage with the councilor of there but to no avail.”
Meanwhile, Mayco member for community services and health Cllr Zahid Badroodien explained that he absorbed a series of problems when stepping into the position. He explained that the recent drought contributed to the fields degenerating.
“As a result of the drought we (City) was not in a position where we’d be able to maintain the fields, in terms if the watering that is required. It goes with out saying that in order to look after the field, the grass needs to grow, and the grass will only grow when watering the field which hadn’t happened in some time.”
Van Nielson acknowledge that there was a water crisis but said “there are other means to save those fields.”
Badroodien explained however that efforts were made to rectify the situation.
“A borehole was installed some time ago, but the irrigation pipes were vandalized and stolen, those were to the value of R800 000. So there is an effort for us to want to invest but it becomes very difficult when there’s this cycle of repair and then damage. All of these facilities have an annual Maintenance Plan but -and I’ve seen this myself- there will be repairs but there is damage done on the same day. But that’s not to say we are not going to make sure there’s at least the minimum maintenance level for all of our fields. What we need to do is bring in an additional water source so we can water the fields and also to maintain the current infrastructure at that field.”
Badroodien highlighted three key issues, the first being a lack of maintenance planning. The second is vandalism of facilities and the third is the safety and security of the staff members that look after these facilities.
Van Nielson explained that security of the facilities themselves is more important.
“I would agree our community needs education. But it is how you secure the complexes- not with thin fences that people can easily break it down- vandalism you’re going to get anywhere. Before we can say “we need to take charge of it” we need to secure it.”
Van Nielson pointed out that lack of proper security is contributing to criminal activities.
“Particularly with the gang shootings, these guys (gangsters) use these places as hide outs. If they really want to look after our people they would put up high walls around it. ”
Badroodien said that three key role players need to co me to the table and make the plans work.
“The first would be political oversight which is your public representatives and I include myself in this. Ward councilors, PR councilors, that looking after the facilities and the community users. The third would be the officials the administrative staff that will have to ensure that the fields are being maintained. One cannot work without the other.”
The councilor went on to explain that the plan which has been presented for this year is marked against the triage system which is used to ascertain at what level these fields can be used, because not all fields can be used the same. Badroodien committed to make contact with Van Nielson in order to find a way forward.
“It’s not too late to make sure there is a budget for all the fields. A good starting point is for me to touch ground with the activist so we can identify what is needed and speak it into the new budget. I don’t want to be a politician who makes promises, I want to be able to engage with the community and give reality to what their needs and concerns are.”