Pool closure a blow to Johannesburg community

By Sheree Bega Time of article published Dec 3, 2019

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Over the past 23 years, Mandy Dewar has been a regular at the Sydenham swimming pool, enjoying a daily swim in its cool waters most mornings.

“I love it. It’s such a great source of pleasure and enjoyment for us as a community, for families with children and for children from the wider community who can come and swim here,” she said.

But on October 30, member of the mayoral committee for Community Development Nonhlanhla Sifumba announced that “unruly users” had led to the closing of the pool on weekends and public holidays.

“This was as requested by the residents living on the perimeters of the pool, due to uncontrollable and unruly behaviour displayed by users over weekends and public holidays upon arrival to and when leaving the pool - often late after closing,” said Sifumba, in a statement.

The city’s open public spaces and facilities had rules and by-laws that needed to be adhered to.

“Although unfortunate for those who have been adhering to the by-laws, the city needs to ensure safety for all users at all times, and this cannot be achieved in the current conditions.”

For Dewar, however, the city should be more proactive. “There was a situation that escalated whereby groups of young people were blaring loud music, drinking alcohol and no one was controlling it in any way. Alcohol is not allowed at the pool - boom boxes and drinking is not okay.”

But it was a civil matter, she believed. “Closing the pool, in my mind, is not the answer. I do think there’s another way. Why not let the Metro Police come in and hang about for a while and restore peace? We need support, not just dealing with this issue in a negative way.

"The pool should be properly used and nuisance kept to a minimum.

“Weekends are when most people want to go there, especially over school holidays. The children are missing out. It’s this green spot in the community that is a little haven for people in the area and closing it just seems so sad, especially with these heatwaves.”

Local resident Robyn Hollander told how she, too, used the public pool daily. “I’m an addict. This pool is like a jewel. It was well-kept and really safe. It services a lot of areas and gives the kids an opportunity to be off the streets."

Community policing structures should play a role. “I have heard there is an unruly crowd and there’s no policing. That’s the problem - no one is policing it. If they’re not going to be able to police it or keep the place the way it needs to be on weekends, how are they going to do it in school holidays?

“There’s nowhere else for the kids to go. It’s lovely for them to have this and it’s really sad if they can’t find a solution to this. It’s been really mismanaged and it’s almost like the city doesn’t see the value in it.”

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said: “If the city can manage the real challenges of Zoo Lake as a picnic area, they should be able to manage an enclosed pool.”

The Saturday Star

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