Danger in our parks

2018-09-25 12:48
The entrance to Wylie Park in the Wembley area.

The entrance to Wylie Park in the Wembley area. (Ian Carbutt)

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Once popular for family gatherings, picnics and nature lovers, Msunduzi’s Alexandra Park and Wylie Park have now been deemed “dirty, dangerous, and completely neglected”.

A quick glance at the parks shows litter spread across the grounds and overall neglect, however, the issues facing both the parks appear to be more serious than your average litter bugs.

Community Policing Forum chairperson Milton Ncolosi said that Alexandra Park used to be “the talk of the town”.

“People went there to have their wedding photos taken. Family and friends would meet at the park and have picnics and children were free to play, unlike today,” said Ncolosi.

“A lot of crime happens in that park, and there have been a number of dead bodies found at the park over the last several years. The park has been totally neglected,” he said.

“It is the responsibility of the municipality to ensure there is security at least at the park because that place is not safe.”

Ncolosi said people often dealt in drugs or used drugs at the park and that it is “a criminal hub”.

“We want to make it the way it was before. It was such a beauty in the city but now no one looks after it, it has been completely neglected.”

Ncolosi said that when he was a child he used the park to play sports with his friends and go to family gatherings.

“It was a beautiful thing. We did not need to go visit the KwaZulu-Natal Botanical Gardens because Alexandra Park had everything.

“It is high time the municipality did something about the park.”

Police sources who asked not to be named said it was known throughout the force that Alexandra Park was becoming increasingly dangerous.

The police sources said it was also difficult to chase after criminals in the park after dark as the area was very poorly lit and they would not be able to see the criminals, which could endanger the life of the officer.

Meanwhile, users of Wylie Park in Athlone described how the perimeter fencing was compromised, and rubbish, including a plastic packet filled with faeces, littered the park.

In September last year The Witness reported that Wylie Park had become a haven for criminals.

This was according to both police and residents at the time.

Criminals had been using the weak spots in the Wylie Park fencing as an access point to houses they wanted to break into.

A man, who asked not to be named in the 2017 article, was quoted as saying: “It is terrible to think that a benefit like Wylie Park has turned into a curse for the community.”

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said at the time that the municipality was not aware of crime occurring in the area and that they would “investigate the matter and act accordingly”.

However, a year later, residents still feel unsafe using the park and say it has fallen into a state of neglect.

Prestbury resident Zarrin Ma’ani said she never visited the park on her own. Ma’ani said the bins were always broken, that the toilets at the park were “not in a great condition” and that the park was filled with litter.

“I do not feel safe going to the park by myself. I see older women walking their dogs in the park by themselves but I definitely wouldn’t.”

Another resident agreed, and added that while the established plants like the azaleas and camelias were still beautiful at Wylie Park, there appeared to be no gardening as such taking place to maintain the park.

Msunduzi acting municipal spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said they are aware that Alexandra Park “is faced with challenges which include uncontrolled abuse of liquor, lack of security and unsavoury activities associated with revellers (being disorderly)”.

“The municipality has a plan to address this situation; we have engaged the police to increase patrolling and we will also place security in the area,” she said. “We also have a plan to find a dedicated area away from Alexandra Park for revellers to gather.

“Through that we will be able to create a safe, vibrant and enabling environment for revellers to socialise and at the same time we will be able to restore Alexandra Park to its original beauty and intended use.”

Ngcobo said of Wylie Park that the municipality is maintaining the park and are “not aware of criminal activities taking place there. An investigation will be conducted”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  parks

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