Infrastructure projects such as the BRT make our communities look better than they were before,” Westbury resident Ishmael Lucas said at the weekend.
Lucas was speaking during an Integrated Development Planning (IDP) meeting at Westbury Recreation Centre on Saturday April 16.
The meeting was, like all IDP gatherings, aimed at bringing the community up to speed with developments that have taken place over the past five years and for residents to come up with ideas on how their areas could be improved going forward. Lucas applauded the City for a job well done and urged it to continue working hard.
But his was a lone voice in a storm of angry views expressed by more than 30 residents, who claimed the City had neglected coloured areas such as Claremont, Westbury and Riverlea. Westbury is part of the Westbury-Perth Corridor, where the City has spent millions of rands to address apartheid’s spatial injustices and bolster sustainable development.
Work that has been taking place in the corridor includes the construction of dedicated Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and cycling lanes, and the building of a bridge and a R20-million modern clinic as part of a mission to create Corridors of Freedom to break away from apartheid’s spatial planning. This will include the development of high-density residential areas that will result in residents living closer to their workplaces and sporting, leisure and educational facilities.
At an earlier IDP meeting in Region B, acting Regional Director Robert Siwedi revealed that the City would in the next financial year in the area spend:
- R20.2-million on the non-motorised transport project, including the construction of pedestrian walkways; storm water upgrades, resurfacing of cycle lanes and provision of landscaping;
- R1.5-million on the upgrading of a park;
- R10-million on the development of a water reservoir;
- R1.5-million on the upgrading of the Coronationville swimming pool; and
- R9-8-million on the upgrading and refurbishment of Union Stadium.
Pandemonium at the Westbury meeting broke out after a councillor grabbed the microphone from a resident who had just started speaking. The councillor had earlier been refused permission to speak by Programme Director Councillor Cathy Seefort, who had said the IDP session was for residents to air their views and pose questions.
Residents vented their dissatisfaction about a range of issues. Almost all the people who spoke complained their areas had been neglected.
Maya Davidson asked whether the City had forgotten about Claremont and Newclare.
“Is there [another] government for these areas? Our children are drug addicts and the authorities don’t seem to care. The remedial schools they used to attend have all closed down. So, we as parents are left to our own devices to deal with this problem,” she said.
Siwedi said, however, that the City’s Department of Health and Social Development had established forums in Westbury and Coronationville to address the challenge.
“We’re engaged with these communities to deal with the drug abuse problem. The community-based programme is one of those aimed at providing work opportunities, help address unemployment and minimise drug abuse. The Jozi@Work Programme has also made work packages available to communities to reduce unemployment, especially among young people,” he said.
Sylvester Silverman said: “Riverlea has a river running through it. It also has a wetland. We need a bridge and malls with restaurants. Tourists drive through Riverlea to go to Soweto to eat traditional food there. We also have our traditional dishes we can serve to tourists, which will help to address unemployment and bring development to Riverlea.”
Other grievances included the lack of maintenance of council-owned flats, absentee councillors; lack of sporting and recreation facilities, libraries and community halls; hijacking of houses by foreigners in Brixton; blocks of flats sinking under a rising damp in Ward 88 and outdated fire safety equipment in flats.
Councillor Seefort said a follow-up IDP meeting would be convened soon to continue with the engagement.