Clean-up reclaims park for Northdale

2013-06-24 00:00

AS the long grass at Northdale’s Lotus Park was cut on Friday, community members saw first-hand how much of a den of iniquity the park had become. Used needles and discarded condoms littered the area.

Stoni Madlala, who has lived in the nearby Site 11 informal settlement since 1995, watched the clean-up with delight.

For years she had witnessed pupils who were playing truant from school use the park as their hideout. It worried her to see young schoolgirls disappear into the long grass with their boyfriends and she felt helpless and sad about being unable to do anything about the situation. Madlala said over the years she watched crime in the area escalate. “We are now scared of our children. Drugs are perpetuating crime in this area, especially whoonga. We no longer feel safe when walking at night in this area. But the beatification of this park is bringing hope to us,” she added.

Madlala said police and the school authorities must now conduct regular patrols in the park, “otherwise, all the hard work will be for nothing”.

Her arthritic knees didn’t allow her to take part in the activities, but she helped by baby-sitting for the young mothers who took part in the clean-up.

The initiative was part of the first phase of a campaign against social ills in the northern suburbs being championed by provincial MEC for Finance Ina Cronjé. The MEC was in the park, raking up grass and filling her share of bin bags. Mayor Chris Ndlela also worked side by side with a group of youngsters from the nearby Nhlakahle informal settlement. The unemployed young men said they were there because they were hoping this would lead to their getting jobs.

Others from the nearby community suspended their cynicism at seeing the councillors working. “This is what we want to see, our councillors and politicians working side by side with us,” said a local resident who did not want to be named. “I am not going to say anything nasty, I want to be encouraging so they will spend more time working in the community,” said the resident.

Judy Umraw was there to lead by example. She said communities needed to be more active instead of waiting for government. “We need to be interested in our own neighbourhood. Schools around here need to adopt this park. It will give them something to be proud of and will be part of their education on taking care of the environment. On Spring Day they could plant flowers here,” she suggested.

Pastor Tony Pillay could not believe how beautiful the park looked after the clean-up. Pointing to the scenery — an unending vista of rolling hills that could be seen from the highest point of the park, Pillay said: “This is one of the most beautiful places in Pietermaritzburg.”

He said the park had become a haven for drug pedlars and prostitution and a hideout for criminals. “This used to be a beautiful place and as a community we must reclaim it back from the criminals,” said Pillay.

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