Ruins to be demolished for redevelopment

The ruins of the Parkwood Community Centre after it was vandalised, burned and demolished by residents during violent protests in May.PHOTO: Earl Haupt
The ruins of the Parkwood Community Centre after it was vandalised, burned and demolished by residents during violent protests in May.PHOTO: Earl Haupt

The site of what remains of the Parkwood Community Centre is being earmarked for demolition.

Protests in May resulted in the community being targeted by vandals where the building was set alight, with the fire spreading to the neighbouring offices. Over the last few months, the respective buildings have been stripped piece by piece, with but a handful of walls still erect.

Ward councillor William Akim has consulted with City of Cape Town officials in obtaining a demolition certificate in order to clear the site for future development of a new community centre.

“There is progress. I will be happy if they have, with this process, consultation with the ward councillor and the community so that they can decide what type of facility they want,” says Akim.

Akim says residents surrounding the ruins of the community centre have voiced their disappointment at those who have caused destruction to the building, which has now brought its own potential risks, most notably safety. He applauded residents who helped prevent further destruction to the clinic during May’s protest action.

“I want to thank those residents who stood up and prevented that facility from being vandalised. That is the message that we as a community need to take forward and to educate and to inform our young people, because many of these facilities which have been damaged – it is not the elderly people (who caused it),” says Akim.

He says that some residents took the opportunity to loot the site, because police and Law Enforcement authorities were focused on the protestors, not realising that vandalism was going to take place. He laments that the situation is sad, because he says the money which will now be used to demolish and rebuild the centre could have been used for other projects in the area.

“We need to stay focused and do something better this time around and make sure that whatever facility we have in our community, that we as the community needs to take ownership, because ultimately it is in our area and our community uses that facility. We have learned a tough and very expensive lesson in making sure that our facilities in our areas need to be protected by the community, because that facility is there for them,” says Akim.

Community leader and convenor of the Voice of Parkwood, Paul Phillips, says organisations and other leaders in the area strongly condemn the vandalism and criminal activity at the community centre.

“As a community leader in Parkwood, we will never condone the breakdown and destruction of any facility that must be of benefit to the people of our community. We strongly condemn any criminal activity that breaks down and destroys our assets of our community,” he says.

Phillips adds that it is unfortunate that the building now stands dilapidated because of protest action, but that the centre was already outdated, and he hopes the new centre will benefit the entire community when it is completed.

“We get used to what we have, which was insufficient and which reminds us of the past. It was a building which was built during the apartheid years. It didn’t serve the entire community,” Phillips says.

Akim also says that residents need to cultivate a sense of pride in facilities constructed for their convenience.

“The future will give us a better view of what our role and responsibilities are. It mainly starts at your house, because you don’t want to do something and break something and you don’t have it anymore. I am just glad that the process is continuing and we will be having a new facility,” he says.

Phillips sympathises with the portion of the community who now have to find alternative facilities, but the situation can be used as an opportunity to redress the inequalities caused by history.

“Let us look at it symbolically, it is a sign of the destruction of the past – the taking away and removal of what our people reject – and we are waiting for the new dawn to rise. There is a new facility coming, so we are waiting on the authorities, as part of the bigger plan of redress for Parkwood, that we will get a better, newer and bigger facility with more modern capabilities that will meet the needs of our learners, children and working-class people. That is what we are looking forward to in the near future.”

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