‘Eastwood needs help’

2012-03-27 00:00

IT is a tale of a Pietermaritzburg community in despair, symbolised by a municipal swimming pool in disrepair.

Yesterday, The Witness visited Eastwood, north of the city, after repeated complaints from readers about the state of the suburb.

“Eastwood needs help,” said a resident.

Echoing this sentiment was long-standing Eastwood resident, Graham Tayler, who said the suburb had lost its sense of community as a result of crime and vandalism.

“Many community-minded people have moved elsewhere,” he said.

“What Eastwood needs is a champion like our former councillor, the late Wally Adams, who worked tirelessly to build a sense of community and tackled the social problems in the suburb,” said Tayler.

“As a councillor he fought hard for the interests of his community.”

Residents told The Witness that parks in Eastwood that were once functional were no longer being maintained.

They said the area once had a skateboarding ramp in a park that was now overgrown, and the swings were broken.

Tennis courts and other recreational facilities were unkempt with weeds through the cracked paving and broken glass lying around.

And then there’s the municipal swimming pool.

Residents described how unruly youths frequently created mayhem, breaking through the walls at the swimming pool to avoid paying the entrance fee.

A woman speaking on condition of anonymity said: “There are too many of them … the kids and the big boys get violent … people used to come as families to the pool but now they are scared.”

Behaviour problems, including drug and alcohol abuse at the pool, have worsened in the past three years, the woman said.

At a house near to the swimming pool bored youths boasted to The Witness yesterday that security guards were no challenge to them.

Msunduzi municipal pools manager Thomas Roux confirmed their brazen attitudes were a problem.

“Security are even afraid,” he acknowledged.

In the past year troublemakers had followed a lifeguard home to Sobantu and stoned him.

Roux said there had been a recent spike in bad behaviour and there was no budget available to improve security.

He said he had approached local schools about the problem, having noticed many troublemakers were aged between 12 and 17.

Other residents spoke of young, unemployed adults causing havoc.

Four days after the swimming season began locals had already broken slabs from the pool’s peri­meter walls to gain entry and avoid paying the R5,70 entrance fee for children, or R9,20 for adults.

Other locals had gripes about the state of the pool.

One called conditions “pathetic”, saying the facilities were poor and the water was often green.

Another remarked: “There’s nothing for children to do during the holidays. That’s why you see them sitting around and smoking.”

A teenage boy interjected: “What do young people do? They go and fight people in [nearby] Woodlands and do the wrong things.”

Ward 34 councillor Eunice Majola confirmed that the complaints about the swimming pool had been reported to the municipality.

She said the facilities were earmarked for upgrading in a schedule that included other areas.

Eastwood would have to wait its turn, she said, but could not say when that would be.

Retired lifeguard Unwar Rawat said municipal-managed pools were neglected and disgraceful.

He praised some people for trying to make a difference.

“One cashier even brought concrete slabs from home to try to fix the wall,” he said.

Roux breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect that winter would give time to work out solutions for the next season at Eastwood swimming pool.


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