The malicious damage to community facilities during protest action has reached unacceptable proportions. While the City counts the cost to continually fix these much-needed facilities, we cannot put a price tag on the loss experienced by residents in these communities.
In the past three years, the vandalism of three City of Cape Town community facilities due to protest action has added up to over R12 million. This money could have been better spent on providing additional recreational facilities, spray parks, smart parks, or synthetic soccer pitches in communities where these facilities are sorely needed. The latest attack at the Bardale Recreation Hub in March resulted in extensive damage to the facility. All of the windows were broken, while the sports equipment, furniture and fittings were vandalised and set alight. The facility will remained closed until further notice.
‘In most instances, community facilities offer a safe space for our vulnerable residents to relax. We put a lot of thought into how to achieve a more equal, safe and caring city. Sport and other recreational activities form an important part of a health-based approach as they offer an alternative use of free time – a diversion for high-risk individuals from gangsterism and drugs.
‘It is therefore extremely distressing to see these facilities being damaged during protest action. Moreover, the destruction of much-needed and well-used equipment, as can be seen in the above photographs, shows utter disrespect for property,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Special Projects, Alderman Belinda Walker.
In the past three years, the following Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department facilities have been vandalised, to the point of being rendered unusable.
|Facility||Cost of damage|
|Bardale Multipurpose Centre||R4 million|
|OR Tambo Hall||R4,39 million|
|Bloekombos Hall||R4 million|
In the case of the Bloekombos Hall, the negative impact of this needless act of vandalism has left this community without a community centre for two years. Such a loss has a severe impact on those who would traditionally make use of the facility. The funds to rebuild these facilities are not readily available and can, in some instances, take a few years to source. In these cases it is the law-abiding residents who suffer the effects of these losses the most.
Sadly, the City’s infrastructure is increasingly becoming the victim during protest action. To add insult to injury, some facilities suffer repeated acts of vandalism with the perpetrators returning time and again to wreak further damage and destruction.
‘It is shocking that our society has developed a culture of burning and destroying community property. There is no excuse for such disrespectful behaviour and this is not the way people should choose to express their grievances – not forgetting the trauma caused to our employees who, in such instances, are threatened by these individuals. I must commend our staff for displaying such resilience during these incidents,’ said Alderman Walker.
The City’s employees who manage these facilities had this to say:
‘The extent of damage is devastating and these acts of arson and vandalism have deprived communities of highly valued facilities. There are many community groups, churches, non-governmental organisations, and sport and recreation programmes which use this space regularly and this centre has functioned as a hub of community activity for many years’.
‘We are grieved on behalf of the community to see it rendered unusable. I hope that the community will stand up and identify the people responsible for the damage so that they can be held accountable. There are already immense demands on the City’s Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department to provide new facilities in areas where there are currently no spaces for sport and recreation. The budget required to repair these facilities will be very difficult to find’.
While it is easy for many to call upon the City to increase the presence of security guards at these facilities, such volatile situations have become life-threatening, even for those who have been entrusted with guarding the facilities.
‘We constantly condemn these acts of vandalism. Because we cannot have a presence everywhere all of the time, we call on our residents to be our eyes and ears on the ground and to tip off the various law enforcement agencies if they know who the perpetrators. This is the only way: to work together to ensure that our recreational and community facilities are looked after for all residents to enjoy,’ added Alderman Walker.