Observatory residents voice concerns about public space

Observaory residents picketed outside Malta Park last week holding placards which read, Lets Take Back Obs and Hands off our green spaces.

Observatory residents picketed outside Malta Park last week, against what they call the privatisation of open public spaces in the area – and the leasing and fencing of the park.

A small group of residents gathered in front of the park on the corner of Liesbeek Avenue and Station Road on Friday July 27, in what they say is the first in a series of planned actions.

Observatory Civic Association chairman Tauriq Jenkins said they had lodged an official objection to the speaker of the City in June and handed over a 250-page document, which included 176 signed petitions and 108 affidavits.

This comes after the City of Cape Town signed a two-year and 11 month agreement with Cape Town City Football Club to lease Hartleyvale Stadium grounds and Malta Park for R8 500 a month.

Mr Jenkins said the key objection was that the City had flouted public-participation requirements by not notifying the registered civic body in the area and approving the enclosure of the public open space without notice to the public.

Mr Jenkins said they had not been notified of these plans, despite the City’s claim to the contrary. He said residents had to follow due process but that did not seem to be the case when it came to the City.

Mr Jenkins said the park was an integral part of the community and had been enjoyed by generations of people. Residents were unhappy as they did not want and had not asked for the area to be fenced.

“The picket is about the fencing of a space that has always been a place of meaning to its residents. I find it offensive that they chose to fence off the area,” he said.

The Tatler reported earlier this year on the soccer club’s R250 million bid to turn the old Hartleyvale football grounds into a 10 000-seater stadium (“Residents red-card proposal,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, April 12).

This plan includes training facilities and synthetic turfs at Malta Park – and construction of the turfs has since commenced.

When the Tatler reported that residents were angry about the fencing off of Malta Park (“Residents rally against closed park,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, January 18), JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, said clubs paid a council-approved tariff to use the fields for their matches. But often they encountered illegal play, which accelerated the damage to the fields, as well as dog faeces.

“The clubs have complained about the dog faeces left on the fields which poses a health risk. Considering the current water restrictions and the fact that the field has no alternate water source, the department needed to take certain measures to preserve the existing fields,” he said at the time.

Ward 57 councillor Paddy Chapple said he supported the closure of the field as it was a sports facility and not a public open space.

Dale Forbes, who led the picket, said the community was concerned about encroaching development.

“The whole process has been unsavoury, and we insist that our rights are respected and that the City deals with issues appropriately.”

Mr Forbes, who has lived Observatory for 15 years, said the Malta Park issue appeared to mirror what was happening in Bo-Kaap, Woodstock and Maiden’s Cove.

Mr Jenkins said the picket was part of a series of planned actions the community was prepared to take until their concerns had been adequately addressed.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction but part of a carefully coordinated plan,” he said.

The City did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.