Barricades around a parl
The GTM has now planted heavy steel beams around most of the park in Park Street and Poinsettia Street and will soon have the entire area cordoned off. Photo: Roelof de Jonge

After a relentless battle by the DA’s Desireé van der Walt, on behalf of the residents of Tzaneen, to have the park in Poinsettia Street cordoned off to prevent local taxi drivers from washing their vehicles in the pond, the municipality has finally stepped up.

This once protected park bordered by Bohemia and Park Streets to its North and Poinsettia and Jacaranda Streets to its South, was mercilessly abused by local taxi drivers, truck operators and informal car wash operators over the course of a decade. Numerous reports flooded social media of taxi drivers washing their vehicles in the stream and the pond in this park daily, and residents from the surrounding neighbourhoods regularly complained to their Ward Councillor of illegal dumping and noise disturbance emanating from the park. Nothing was however done about solving the problem

The final straw on the camel’s back was when a man graffitied his phone number and the words “car wash” on the barks of nearly every tree in the area and setup an informal car wash right next to the pond. (Bulletin reported on this matter extensively and pressured the municipality to solve the matter). Within days there was litter floating on the pond and plastic bags and leftover takeaways lay strewn across the park.

Bulletin raised the issue many times on public platforms and during one of the 138 daily drive shows broadcast live during the hard lockdown in April last year, documented the dastardly state of the site and even chased taxis off the property who were filmed washing their vehicles.

Van der Walt had long been campaigning to have the park cordoned off. During the last few years she had written to the various acting municipal managers and mayors and raised the issue with environmental affairs. It was only after she took the matter to parliament that she was taken seriously.

Finally last week a contractor appointed by the municipality started digging holes around the park and this week they were seen planting large steel I-beams into those holes. The beams are solid steel portions of previous constructions which were sourced from the GTM’s workshop. The Ward Councillor for the ward (15) Tienie Prinsloo, is supplying the transport of the beams from the workshop to the site and has also agreed to assist in the cutting of the beams to the appropriate sizes. The municipality is thus only paying for the labour which has set the taxpayers of this municipality back R14 000.

“We listened to the concerns of the community and took the decision to cordon off the park area. Our intention is to corner off the entire park and prevent the parking of vehicles there. This should prevent the illegal washing of vehicles and littering in this beautiful area and prevent any further noise disturbances,” said Neville Ndlala, spokesperson for the GTM. The project should be completed by May this year.

***Editor’s comment: It is shocking that it literally took years for the municipality to “hear the cries of the people” and decide to take it upon themselves to fulfil their mandate of service delivery. Shocking too is that it took the residents and the head of the opposition’s constituency in the area, to pressurize a ward councillor into seeking a solution to a very serious environmental issue in the ward under his care. Do politicians (on both sides) underestimate the public’s intellect to such an insultingly simple level, or is the public perhaps this easily worn down by the nonchalance of its elected officials, that they no longer have a fight left in them? Do not for one instance be pacified into condoning illegal behaviour by paying heed to ridiculous comments regarding the “good work” completed in the fencing off of another park in town. The two issues are not related and have no bearing on one another. Furthermore, the Poinsettia Park was cordoned off through the correct channels and according to the processes that needed to be followed for such a project. This does not by default forgive any unauthorized, albeit allegedly well-intended, similar actions. Not by anyone.