Centre ‘under lock and key’

2016-09-13 06:00

A centre that was used to develop skills with youth is now in the middle of controversy.

The Asibambani Youth centre on Klip Road, has been closed for months now after the previous ward councillor restricted access to the premises. Now residents who live on the property say they are fed up with the abuse of the centre.

George January who lives on the property and currently the interim chairperson of Community Residents and Community Leaders Forum says they have been in an ongoing battle to ensure the centre is used for the youth of the area.

“I have been living on these premises for the past two years and while living here I have been involved with developing skills with our youth in the area. There are too many who are idle and I have been working on programmes such as vegetable gardening and soccer training, to get them off the streets,” January says.

But in recent months, January says he has been caught in confrontations with the previous ward councillor Leslie Isaacs when they have been denied access to the Asibambani Youth Centre.

“Things started getting out of hand when Isaacs restricted access at the centre. I am the only one who lives here after he offered me the accommodation when I hit a rough patch. He said I could live here and I have been maintaining the premises because there is no janitor. There is also no clarity as to who has the lease for the centre,” January says. “But now all of a sudden we are not able to move freely on the premises anymore because he changes the locks every time.”

January says they would like to use the centre for developing skills for youth from the area. “We held public meetings previously with our new ward councillor to voice our concerns. We want to use the centre for education, soccer and table tennis, after school care and a play centre for toddlers as well as a feeding scheme for the destitute people,” he says.

January says he also started a vegetable garden at the centre which youth have also become involved in.

Isaacs has however blasted the allegations as “false”. “Currently the Lotus River Youth Club are the users of that premises. The organisation is in the process of having a lease finalised for the organisation,” he confirms.

According to Isaacs he has also never restricted access at the building.

“As you know, Lotus River is very dangerous and because of this, precautions are in place to safeguard the premises.The gates are locked during the day when the centre is not being used but at night the janitor and staff at the centre ensure the premises are secure. Even when I get to the centre, I have to hoot outside and wait for someone to open for me.

“The centre is locked during the day as no programmes are to be run during school hours. We have holiday programmes and after school programmes but before then, we do not allow children of school going age to be allowed at the centre because they are supposed to be at school.”

He further says the centre is being vandalised. “At the moment there is conflict with regard to this issue but we are working at having the issue resolved,” Isaacs says.

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