Study looks at how to breathe new life into ’forgotten city’

Mitchell’s Plain United Residents Association (MURA) in partnership with Development Action Group (DAG) has released a booklet called Re-imagining Eastridge, a community-centred approach to neighbourhood regeneration.

Many people living in Mitchell’s Plain view it as a “forgotten city” and a “place of neglect”.

This, among others, was revealed in a document launched last Friday, March 11, which explores how new life can be breathed into the area.

The study, titled Re-imagining Eastridge, a community-centred approach to neighbourhood regeneration is the result of a joint effort by the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents Association (MURA) and the Development Action Group (DAG).

The launch, held at Westridge library on Friday March 11, was attended by community leaders from around Mitchell’s Plain.

DAG project co-ordinator Ryan Fester said rather than looking at Mitchell’s Plain as a whole, they had decided to start by looking at a single community.

“The things shared in the booklet are not foreign to us,” he said. “We realised we were not achieving much with focusing on the whole area but we zoomed in on a specific area which was Eastridge, Mitchell’s Plain. This area is well-known for its Town Centre CBD.”

The booklet was released on Friday March 11 at the Westridge Library with leaders who play vital roles in the community.

Mura deputy chair Michael Jacobs added that they wanted to uplift the community and had used Eastridge as an entry point.

The organisation’s chairman, Norman Jantjies said their vision was to improve the quality of life in Mitchell’s Plain and that the study focused on how service delivery could be improved and challenges overcome. “We cannot be the advocates if we are alone; we need to collaborate,” he said.

Chairman for MURA Norman Jantjies said their vision is to improve the quality of life in Mitchell’s Plain.

Their main focus areas have included land, housing, safety and economic development, as well as youth development, education, social development, sports, and health.

To gather data for their study, he said, they had interviewed many people and held group discussions, with the assistance of DAG as their strategic partner.

“We need to build unity in a safe environment. We were divided at first but now we make sure we all work together and have functioning sub-forums and are part of building neighbourhood watch sectors, to name a few,” said Mr Jantjies.

Mr Fester, said while Mitchell’s Plain was a beautiful place, there was much to be done, especially when it came to land. However, he said, before they could propose solutions, they needed to identify and properly understand the issues faced by the community.

One of the many problems they picked up on was transport, and children being left to their own devices.

“We must think about Mitchell’s Plain and the future, looking at the 1 million people (who live there). Re-imagining Eastridge was the first step to a bigger picture. This involves more than Mura but also the councillors, safety structures, community leaders, to name a few,” Mr Fester said.

He added that “people only come here to live and stay but go out of the area to work” and highlighted that Mitchell’s Plain was predominantly residential.

“We need to change what people think about Mitchell’s Plain. The interviewees felt we needed to bring businesses back to Mitchell’s Plain. There is also not enough land to build for all. “This is a severe issue, we need to think differently about land and how we build here,” said Mr Fester.

Some people who were interviewed also felt their councillors had let them down and should take more responsibility for the area – and that more needed to be done about youth education and social development.

Respondents also highlighted that despite vacant land being available, there was no sports field in Eastridge. And among the findings of the study was that many issues affecting Eastridge were common to other parts of Mitchell’s Plain as well.

Cape Coloured Congress councillor Dawayne Jacobs was particularly interested in addressing issues around Town Centre. “There are plans we’ve discussed to fix some of the issues in the Town Centre. We are working hard to make this happen. We need the community to participate in these issues,” he said.

Patriotic Alliance PR councillor Marvin Sampson suggested that stakeholders take off their “political hats” when working with communities. “The country is in a situation because of politics. Our communities sometimes suffer while we are fighting on a local level.”

“There is a new breed of politicians in town. We were activists before we were councillors,” he said.

Swedish engineering students from Lund University, Emmy Tarras-Wahlberg and Emmy Larsson, were also at the launch. Their focus is on land management and which strategies are being used in urban planning to counteract segregation in South Africa – and Cape Town in particular.

“We’re looking to find out if any of the strategies used in South Africa, to counteract segregation, could be implemented in Sweden. How we’ve done this was by talking to people working with urban planning, locals, community members, zoomed in on the City and attended the book launch,” said Ms Tarras-Wahlberg.