Playpark blues in Eastridge

Community worker April Engelbrecht from Agents for Change with the angry residents at the park.

Eastridge residents are furious about the layout and structure of a new park situated in the middle of an area notorious for gang activity.

The park is bordered by five streets – Fig Tree, Bloubos, Boekenhout, Baobab and Kiaathof.

Among the residents’ grievances are the placement of play equipment and netball pitch and that the park lights only work occasionally, and when they do, they are too dim.

Agents for Change community worker April Engelbrecht said residents had not been involved in the planning of the park.

“Parks are supposed to be safe and free areas, but sadly this is not the case in Eastridge. In 2002, I applied for the speed humps in the road of the park, because the cars drove extremely fast in street, now we have seen that they implemented it.

“Eventually, they put equipment in the park, but the structure doesn’t make sense and most importantly it is unsafe,” he said.

The residents want the equipment moved to the side of the field where there are two houses on either side. They also suggested that the unfinished netball and soccer pitches be moved from the right hand side of the park, to the middle area.

Sean Solomons, of the Boekenhout Street Committee said the equipment was located in an area surrounded by gang activity. “It is extremely dangerous for children who play in the park, especially in the middle because it faces to roads that gangsters run across,” he said.

Eastridge resident Igshaan Isaacs echoed Mr Solomons’ comments, adding that bullets “come down like rain drops” in the area.

“This park needs fencing because the guys run across the park, while the children are playing. As you can see, many children play in this park. Where else can they play?”

Another Eastridge resident, Ashley Roos, who has been living in the area for 26 years, said the park lights often don’t work, and when they do, they are dim, providing the cover of darkness for criminals.

“We were not informed about the park layout and structure. We would gladly have informed the City about the dynamics of the area. So, we are appealing to the City to look at the issue as it affects residents, including children,” Mr Roos.

Ashley Potts, deputy chairperson for the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum, said violence was always a concern in Mitchell’s Plain and urged people to join the community crime-fighting structures.

“It is not right that children are exposed to violence in their community. However, there are street committees in the area, but what we find is that residents are protecting the gangsters who are their children. So they commit the crimes and get away with it.

“So we are calling on residents to report crime, keep your children safe and most importantly be pro-active,” he said.

Ward 79 councillor Solomon Philander, however, said the park had indeed been constructed with the community’s input and accused Mr Engelbrecht of “stirring up” the community.

“He held meetings without informing or inviting me. In this financial year we installed lights on the field using local labour. The play equipment was installed. The community was happy with no objections.

“The pitch was installed on a sandy area. One senior complained that they can’t walk on the hard surface to town centre; they prefer it sandy,” he said.

Mitchell’s Plain police spokesperson Constable Nozuko Makwayiba confirmed that Eastridge was a crime hot spot but that police had made inroads “in terms of arrests for firearms and drugs”.

“With regard to the playpark,” she said, “we are very much in favour of a consultative process to restructure the park as it falls within the ambit of crime prevention through environmental design.”Constable Makayiba said the police would be having an imbizo with the community tomorrow, Thursday May 4, in Gazelle and Elephant park.