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The return of leisurely Sunday afternoon strolls in Jozi parks Print E-mail
31 July 2017
City Parks

The City of Johannesburg’s Community Development and Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo (JCPZ) have embarked on a new initiative to reclaim public parks through sport and physical activity.

Speaking during a public dialogue at Wits University on Thursday July 27, JCPZ General Manager Ayanda Roji said the entity would soon design and redevelop the End Street North Park in the Johannesburg inner city and use it as a pilot project.

“We have already started with the works on that park and we hope to be starting our case study in the next few months,” Roji said.

She said safe sport and physical activity had an important role to play in building resilience and empowering young people.

“Together with our stakeholders we are designing innovative physical activities to promote active citizenry and strengthen social cohesion in parks,” she said.

Roji said the aim of the initiative was to bring back the old culture of families, friends, relatives and partners taking that leisurely stroll in the park on Sunday afternoons.

“It used to be refreshing and rejuvenating. Fathers and grandfathers walking their dogs in the park. Stokvel groups holding their monthly meetings in the park. Even social parties and picnics being held in the park. It was humanely,” she said.

Roji named Sport for Social Change Network, Wits University, Sticky Solutions and a German company as JCPZ’s social partners.

Speakers welcomed the City’s initiative but expressed concerns about crime, violence, filth and vigrancy in some of the Johannesburg’s parks.

One participant said she lived opposite a park in the northern suburbs. “But I’m afraid I cannot walk alone in the park unless my son is around to escort me. It’s not safe anymore, especially for us women,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the Community Development Department, Cllr Meshack van Wyk said the initiative would see the utilisation of public spaces as an entry point to building cities that provided a safe and integrated environment for movement.

He said the 2015 incident at Rhodes Park in Kensington, where two men drowned and their partners raped after an attack by 10 men, was a tragedy that should never happen again.

“Parks should be places of relaxation, safety, enjoyment and entertainment. They should not be places of crime and violence,” he said.

“When I grew up in Eldorado Park in the early 1970s we played games like diketo, umrabaraba, skop die bal and black mampatile in the park. We played with girls and they played with us. There werer no games for boys or girls. We had games for everybody. Even adults played mrabaraba and chess,” he reminisced.

Van Wyk warned, however, that the initiative could face challenges as some of the City’s parks had been taken over by vagrants and homeless people.

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