Community’s call to save sportsfield

The field behind Howick Court.

Residents of Howick Court in Hanover Park fear there will be an increase in gang violence if the City of Cape Town goes ahead with a housing development on a field in the area.

In March this year more than 1 000 people signed a petition after residents heard about the development.

Residents say their children need the field to play on.

Resident Shamiela Hendricks said the field behind Howick Court, between Lonedown, Johndown and Lonston roads, had been used as a soccer field until the City erected containers on it in 2010, to house residents while they renovated Howick Court flats.

The field had then been used as a dumping site, leaving it covered in rubble and making it a breeding ground for rats and flies.

Ms Hendricks had been in a battle with City officials from December last year to February this year to have the field cleaned up.

After numerous emails, the City’s Zaahir Jassiem, senior project manager, sent an email to Ms Hendricks saying the contractors had cleaned up the field when they removed the containers and that the community had been dumping on the space

On Friday February 12, the City’s Rodger van Graan, administrative officer for Human Settlements and Logistics Support, said that the field would be cleaned up and fencing provided to prevent any further dumping.

On the same day, current ward councillor Antonio van der Rheede sent an email to Mr Van Graan and Ms Hendricks, saying that he thinks the land had been earmarked for housing development in 2017.

Ms Hendricks emailed him back saying that she was very upset about the matter and that Hanover Park was already overpopulated. She added that the field stands between two rival gangs and that a housing development would lead to other possible gangsters moving into the flats. She added that community uses the field to walk across to the bus terminus to go to work every day.

On February 24, she sent another email to Mr Van Graan, saying that the field had still not been cleaned up. He replied, apologising for the delay and said that the department did not have the necessary equipment to remove the rubble and that the matter had been outsourced, but that it remained a priority and would be dealt with.

On Tuesday March 8, Mr Van Der Rheede replied, saying that the land had been identified for housing development for backyard dwellers due to the lack of housing in the area. He added that housing on the field in the view of the safety experts at the City’s Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrade project, would bring down the rate of gang violence in that space.

The field was eventually cleaned up in April and fencing was put up.

Fagmia Matthews, 39, from Hanover Park, said before the containers were erected, the City assured residents that they would get their sports field back.

“Before they started with the containers they asked us how we feel about it and we said once the renovations are done we want our sports field back and they said we have nothing to worry about. But last year we started hearing rumours about a housing development, and when we met with them they said that it would be used to build houses for backyard dwellers,” said Ms Matthews.

She said there is currently only one field for the children to play on because the other two are too far away from Howick Court and not safe due to gang warfare.

“People need houses, but why here? Why on our sports field? The children have nowhere to play. They can’t play here on the grounds because the residents moan about their windows and cars being damaged. They can’t sit inside and watch TV all day,” she said.

Mogamat Sedick Vermeulen, 63, another Howick Court resident, said a new housing development could bring about more gangsterism.

“Yes, people need houses, but we know the gangsterism will flare up due to turf wars. There are already two gangs, one on either side of the field. If I had to keep record of the amount of people that died due to gangsterism so far it would be thousands,” said Mr Vermeulen.

Lamees Davids, 55, who is a soccer and netball facilitator at Parkfields Primary in Hanover Park, also fears that a new housing development on the field will increase gangsterism.

There are currently two opposing gangs on opposite ends of the field.

Ms Davids said the community needed the field to encourage children to play sport, and stay clear of gangsterism. She said that the residents of Hanover Park will be “too happy” to assist in introducing sport to the children again.

“Two weeks ago there were people driving around in a car with a speaker saying there will be a meeting about the field at the civic centre. The council said they will be using the field for housing because people needed housing, such as the backyard dwellers. We didn’t even get a chance to speak,” said Ms Davids.

Muneeb Johnson, 47, Leeds United soccer club coach, said that sport is what keeps children away from gangsterism.

He added the club currently has no field to play on.

“We’ve even bought our own poles and paint for the lines but we don’t have a field to play on. We don’t want their money, we just want them to upgrade the field so we can play there,” he added.