Sports field a ’dumping ground for dead children’

The City of Cape Town will be motivating for funding in this year’s 2021/22 budget, to have a precast wall constructed around the Swartklip Indoor Centre sports field.

Mayoral committee member for community service and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien, said the fencing was needed after 95% of it was vandalised or stolen over a period of years.

This follows the discovery of a skeleton found on the outskirts of the sports field by a 6-year-old boy on Friday April 30.

Mitchell’s Plain police station spokesman, Captain Ian Williams, said they attended to the complaint at 6.55pm. “The body was in a decomposed state. A post-mortem report is currently awaited,” he said.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call investigating officer, Detective-Sergeant Vuyan Claassen from the Mitchell’s Plain SAPS Crime Investigation Unit, on 021 370 1682.

The skeleton was found metres away, from where the mutilated body of 11-year-old Stacha Arendse was discovered about four years ago.

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Last month’s gruesome discovery has prompted Mosadie Gives Back, a non-profit organisation which has been feeding thousands of vulnerable children from Tafelsig for the past few years, to again ask the City of Cape Town to keep the field, which is close to residents’ homes, clear of refuse, including rubble, dead animals and tyres being burned.

Shanaaz Allie, founder of Mosadie Gives Back, at the edge of a hole, where sand was dug out.

Shanaaz Allie, founder of the organisation, also asked that children living around the sports field and its centre are able to use it.

She said despite promises, the City has done nothing to keep the centre open and turn it into a place where people can thrive. “Instead, it is slowly turning into a dumping ground for dead children,” she said.

Ms Allie said they have asked to use the sports centre as a place where they can perhaps cook from, or host activities to keep children off the streets. “Instead we have children roaming an unenclosed field close to the dump site, where they are getting sick from playing in the dirt,” she said.

She said Stacha, who disappeared in 2017, was found raped and murdered behind the Swartklip centre which was built in 2010 with funds from the Fifa World Cup.

A memorial on the edge of Swartklip sports field, marks where the body of Stacha Arendse, 11, was found.

“The area is littered with tons of garbage and potholes, making it easy to hide the bodies,” said Ms Allie.

“In June last year, we managed to mobilise the City to clean up the area, but we can’t get them back on a regular basis. We are now in talks with them again, but cleaning once isn’t enough, as some community members continue to dump their garbage on this field, making it impossible for us to keep it clean. When we try and stop them, they threaten to kill us. We need a long-term solution to this problem.”

Ms Allie said the City needs to take ownership of the area which has since turned into a place of horror.

She asked: “How many dead children must be found there before something is done?”

Ms Allie said the City is worried about a fence but there has never been a fence here.

“If there was a spot light residents could see the comings and goings of people on the field.

“They come here, dig up sand, dump their dirt and we have motor enthusiasts coming to spin, rev and pop their vehicles, which adds to noise pollution and the sad state of the area surrounding the homes of the Tafelsig people,” she said.

Building contractors have been digging holes to collect sand, which is filled with refuse and has become a dumping ground.

Sharon Miller, a long-time supporter of Ms Allie in her feeding scheme, urged for more action from the municipality to keep children from Mitchell’s Plain safe.

“Implementing sustainable garbage removal and ongoing programmes to keep the area clean and safe will play a pivotal role in keeping our children safe,” she said.

Dr Badroodien said the sports field was open for use.

Weekend bookings are primarily for soccer league matches and tournaments. During weekdays the netball courts are used for practise matches or tournaments and the fields for morning or afternoon exercise groups.

“In addition, the Recreation and Parks Department has an agreement in place with four schools in the local area, for use of the facility during athletics season,” he said.

Dr Badroodien said the booking system was in place and clubs were advised to submit their requests to the Municipal Facility Management Committee(MFMC), who engage with the department to manage use of the sports fields, ensuring that they are not overplayed. Informal groups or community members can secure use of the facility through the booking office.

“Unfortunately the fields do not have perimeter fencing and there is a challenge with clubs using the fields without permission, outside of working hours,” he said.

He said over time there have been a number of incidents of cases reported to SAPS, of bodies found on the outer edges of the sports field, especially after weekends.

He said bodies found were disposed of in the outskirts where due to vandalism, there are gaps in the perimeter fencing between the fields and adjacent residential housing.

This has resulted in boundaries not being clearly demarcated and thicker vegetation growing in these parts.

Dr Badroodien said there were security guards employed to patrol the facility – two during the day and two at night.

“Sports fields are vast expanses of land and it is unfortunately not affordable or sustainable for the City to rely on costly private security to manage safety,” he said.

He said the department is in continuous engagement with the MFMC and will continue to work with the community to find sustainable solutions for the challenges at the facility.