Working to ensure 'safety is prioritised': Durban's Florida Road hosts its first Open Streets event

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Musician Duncan (third from left) laying flowers where AKA was shot dead on Florida Road in Durban.
Musician Duncan (third from left) laying flowers where AKA was shot dead on Florida Road in Durban.
PHOTO: Jabulani Langa
  • Durban hosts its pilot Open Streets programme in Florida Road on Sunday.
  • Officials will allow minimal vehicles through the road for the entire day.
  • Rapper Kiernan 'AKA' Forbes was gunned down last month in the same popular street.

On Sunday, Durban's Florida Road will see minimal vehicle movement as the city gears up to host its first Open Street pilot programme.

The length of Florida Road will be closed to vehicle traffic from 04:00 in preparation for the event, which takes place from 09:00 to 17:00.

Open Streets is about pedestrianising some busy areas on occasion for locals and visitors alike, as well as creating spaces that are accessible and safe for a day-long outdoor pop-up event.

How safe is your neighbourhood? Find out by using News24's CrimeCheck

The road closure for vehicles will run from just below Cottam Grove at the top of Florida Road (at Florida Fields) and the north point of the Eighth Avenue intersection (at The Benjamin Hotel).

Adequate parking and alternative access points for church congregants will be available. eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the event's main stage would be situated at Gordon Road Park.

Mayisela said:

The official drop-off and pick-up point for the event will be on Florida Road, between Tenth and Ninth Avenue, allowing motorists to loop between the two streets via Montpelier Place.

The KFC drive-through will also be accessed via this loop. However, no roadside parking on Florida Road will be permitted.

Metro police and marshals will be on hand to monitor and advise motorists.

Last month, popular rapper Kiernan "AKA" Forbes and his long-time friend and business partner Tebello "Tibz" Motsoane were gunned down on Florida Road, prompting safety concerns along the busy street.

In CCTV footage, Forbes could be seen leaving the Wish on Florida restaurant with a group of men before unknown gunmen opened fire.

To date, no arrests have been made.

When asked about safety concerns for the event, Mayisela said the Open Streets pilot project has nothing to do with the AKA incident and that the programme had been in planning prior to the incident.

"We understand that safety is a major concern when it comes to events of this magnitude and nature, and as such, we are working with metro police, SAPS, the local area Urban Improvement Plan (UIP) and private security to ensure that safety is prioritised," Mayisela added.

READ | Safety along Durban's Florida Road where AKA was killed 'on the decline'

According to Mayisela, the pilot programme will be used as an experiment where an assessment will be conducted on what works and how to improve the project for rollout in other areas around the city.

"The notion of pedestrianisation is something that's being explored globally, with some great case studies in the Middle East, Australia, USA and Europe, of converting a street into pedestrian use only – either permanently, or for special occasions.

"Having Open Streets in Durban is great from a tourism perspective as well," Mayisela added.

News24 previously reported that scores of residents in and around Florida Road warned that crime is destroying the bustling nightlife in the area.

Gary Manthe, chairperson of the community policing forum (CPF) in Lower Morningside, said crime had become a serious problem in recent years.

He said a few months ago, the brother of a known drug dealer was killed in the same area.

"It was unclear as to exactly what happened, but they shot him in the head, and that was it," Manthe added.

While the community and the CPF were involved in many crime prevention campaigns, such as walkabouts, Manthe said Durban's metro police had to do more to enforce by-laws.

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