Graffiti on tree in park
The makeshift car wash and social area on the brim of one of the dams in the preserve between Park and Poinsettia Streets in Tzaneen. The Ward Councillor of this area seemed hesitant to act and put a stop to this problem. Photo: Joe Dreyer

The situation in the public park between Park and Poinsettia Streets is worsening at a rapid rate. Last week Bulletin reported on the vandalism of the trees next to one of the two dams in this park which were transformed into signboards advertising taxi car wash rates. The ward Councillor for this ward, Tienie Prinsloo, was informed of the situation and instructed to take the matter up with the municipality as a matter of extreme urgency. This apparently did not happen which prompted DA MP, Desiree van der Walt to take the matter up with the municipal manager and the mayor, in person.

In the meantime the informal and illegal car wash entrepreneurs have continued with business as usual as the police said that they are not able to remove the squatters from the site as it is municipal property and the municipality has to remove them as there is no criminal offense. Fires have been started at the site and earlier this week, an informal hair salon sprung up next to the car wash.

If there were a fence around this preserve, there would be no vandalism or blatant littering in this park. Instead, the community and some news outlets heaped praise onto the fencing in of a playground which had never seen any incidents of crime to validated the expense of a palisade fence. Photo: Joe Dreyer

In her communication to the GTM Mayor, Maripe Mangena, Van der Walt requested urgent attention and called for the area to be fenced off and signboards stating “no fishing” or “washing of cars” to be clearly displayed. She indicated that the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy would be informed of the matter.

The park in question houses a protected frog species which is endemic to Tzaneen and surrounding areas. There was also a protected bird species in this open-air nature preserve at one point which is why the park used to be patrolled two decades or so ago. Long time residents of the area told Bulletin that there used to be a large rock with a plaque stating that the park was a sanctuary, but the municipality removed the plaque a few years ago and declared that it no longer bore the title. A Google search however reveals that the park is still registered as a nature preserve.

Graffiti in a park in Tzaneen
This is the sight that greets travellers commuting to and from town down Poinsettia and Park Streets in Tzaneen. Photo: Joe Dreyer

“The problem is that if this situation is allowed to escalate, pretty soon there will be a shack erected in among the bushes. Soon after that there will be another one and so on, until we have an informal settlement in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. The municipality will then be powerless to remove the residents of such an informal settlement,” said Van der Walt. “The laws of this municipality need to be adhered to.

***Editors Note: Did we not perhaps spend unnecessary money, time and effort to fence in the wrong park? Would the palisade fence which now renders the popular Minitzani Park devoid of any children, not have been more suited around this green strip in the middle of the residential neighbourhood in Park Street? We now have an increase in criminal activity inside a preserve, which we could have put a stop to, in exchange for a model play park nobody visits anymore. On that point, Bulletin has sent inquiries to the municipal manager regarding the procedures followed in the run up to the sudden fencing-in of that park which is municipal property and would have required a public participation meeting.