Calls for City to host consultations before closing problematic walkways

A derelict walkway in Gugulethu is transformed by iThemba Walkway. Pic: Supplied

A derelict walkway in Gugulethu is transformed by iThemba Walkway. Pic: Supplied

Published May 28, 2024


Cape Town - The iThemba Walkway project, based in Gugulethu, has called on the City to reconsider its approach to closing problematic walkways across the metro.

The catalyst community-driven project rehabilitates derelict public walkways into safe spaces for residents.

Their statement comes after the City closed 57 walkways in Mitchells Plain, with another 265 lanes to follow.

iThemba Walkway community manager Roshana Naidoo said the City should first engage with changemakers before closing walkways.

“Instead of a blanket approach, we ask the City of Cape Town to consider a nuanced strategy that acknowledges the unique needs of diverse communities,” she said.

Naidoo said by listening to and engaging with community leaders, the City could make informed decisions that uplift and enhance the well-being of residents.

“As members of society, we recognise the crucial role walkways play in facilitating movement and access to essential services.

“Infrastructure plays a vital role in a democratic society, and removing essential community resources undermines this principle when it is done without consideration,” Naidoo said.

Deputy mayor and spatial planning and environment mayco member Eddie Andrews said there were no plans to close walkways across Cape Town.

According to Andrews, there is an ongoing initiative in Mitchells Plain, which has initiated a phased process to close pedestrian and cycle lanes in areas that have been used for criminal activities and by gangsters.

Andrews said the process was initiated in 2013 at the request of residents while in his capacity as the chairperson of sub-council 12 at the time.

To date, up to 57 lanes have been closed with another 265 lanes to follow, Andrews said.

“At the time when Mitchells Plain was developed, the town planners designed the neighbourhood with hundreds of alleys so pedestrians could easily get from one area to the next,” Andrews said.

“Unfortunately, due to high levels of crime and gangster activities, the residents abutting these alleys responded to this threat by building high walls for personal safety and security reasons.

“As a consequence, being out of sight and with no lighting, these lanes have become an ideal space for criminal activities and easy escape routes,” said Andrews.

He said he was unaware of iThemba Walkway’s concerns regarding this issue.

“We are not aware of this. But, I want to assure residents that walkways cannot be closed without the local community supporting it as a first step,” he said.

Mitchells Plain Community Police Forum chairperson, Norman Jantjies, agreed that residents first needed to be consulted over whether or not they wanted walkways closed.

“Sometimes it is a critical access to a bus stop or to a school. In principle, we think it’s a good thing,” he said.

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Cape Argus