Category Archives: Athlone

BBC: South Africans fight eviction for World Cup car park

by Mohammed Allie BBC News, Cape Town

For six families living in derelict changing rooms next to one of South Africa’s official training venues in Cape Town, the prospect of the football World Cup has turned from a dream to a nightmare.

The families who comprise 24 people, half of them children, are facing eviction to make space for the parking area next to the Athlone Stadium which has been upgraded to the tune of 406m rand ($53m, £36m) to bring it up to Fifa standards.

The upgrade includes a brand new pitch, three new grandstands, VIP suites and improved player facilities.

The tenacity of the families, who have mounted a legal challenge with the help of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, has bought them time as Cape Town’s City Council has been ordered by a local magistrate’s court to find suitable alternative accommodation before the changing room can be demolished.

Some of the families have been living in the changing rooms for as long as 11 years, as the city’s acute housing shortage, which is said to number 410,000 units, has driven desperate people to live rough in the poorer parts of Cape Town.

Football blackout

Following the closure of an AstroTurf hockey complex and the subsequent departure of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who used the changing rooms, the current occupants divided the facility into six tiny cement-floored rooms, one for each family.

They all share two toilets and two taps. They have had no electricity since the council cut off the power two years ago.

One of the changing room residents Lewellyn Wilters said he “cried with joy” when he first heard six years ago that South Africa would host the World Cup.

“I was overjoyed when I heard that Athlone would be upgraded. I thought it would bring good things for all of us in this area, which is desperately in need of development,” he said.

“Now I’m crying again. I’m going to lose my home because of the World Cup, and what makes it worse is that we are being told that we must move for a parking lot.”

The car park is now being built around them.

“We don’t want the World Cup because these people [Fifa] come with their own rules and in the end it’s the locals that suffer,” Mr Wilters said.

“We don’t even have electricity in here, so we won’t be able to watch the games on television.

“What’s the use of supporting Bafana [the South African team] when we can’t watch them.”

As a football-lover Mr Wilters is, however, still hoping that Brazil will train in Cape Town during the course of the month-long tournament, and is prepared to pay to watch them practise.

“Then I would say ‘thank you’ the World Cup did something for us. But at the back of my mind the eviction is still in my mind because I could be out on the street when it’s all over.”

But Blamo Brooks, the council’s area manager for sport and recreation, is unrepentant about the planned eviction, saying the facility is not fit for human habitation.

“This venue was built as a changing] room to serve hockey and soccer players,” he said.

“The living space is not properly partitioned to allow for household occupancy. The ablution facilities, the water and electricity provision is not suitable for occupancy.

“It certainly is not suitable to house six families – it’s an undesirable situation for people to live under such conditions.”

Next to the changing room, a semi-detached cottage which was built in the 1930s to house army officers, has already been demolished.

Architectural heritage

Yaseen Watson, 70, who lived in one of the cottages, was more fortunate than the six families since he was offered alternative accommodation across the road.

However, he regrets that the home in which he lived since 1966 was demolished to make way for the parking area.

“It was very sad, from the day the council came to me and said they wanted to move me to make way for a parking area.

“After all, 43 years is a long time. It was very hard for me, the house has so many memories – all 10 of my children were born and grew up there.”

Ashraf Cassiem, co-ordinator for the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town, believes the council should have restored the house given its age because it was part of the area’s heritage, rather than knocking it down.

Mr Brooks disagrees, saying: “The community has not been impoverished by the demolition of the two cottages and neither have the occupants been disadvantaged. On the contrary, they are better off as they are now living in two separate cottages which are bigger than the ones they lived in before.”

Meanwhile, the council has unveiled an extensive plan to get homeless people off the street leading up to the World Cup and Cape Town’s notoriously harsh winter season.

Working closely with NGOs, the city plans to accommodate and employ hundreds of homeless men, women and children, as well as reunite them with their families.

Armed with more than 1,000 disposable razors, 6,000 bars of soap, 6,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 tubes of toothpaste and 1,000 blankets, the city is also hoping to ensure the people are clean and well-groomed for the duration of the programme.

It will also create 600 temporary jobs to assist vulnerable people with the reintegration process, paying them 40 rand ($5.20, £3.60) a shift.

Sowetan: ‘City wants to hide us from Cup tourists’

‘City wants to hide us from Cup tourists’
01 June 2010
Anna Majavu

SOME of Cape Town’s poorer residents have accused the city of planning to build a wall – to hide them from World Cup tourists.

About 30 people took over a derelict building on the edge of Athlone Stadium’s parking lot seven years ago.

But now they are in the way of the city council plans to extend the parking lot of the stadium – which will be used as a football practice ground during the World Cup.

The city had previously applied to the courts to evict the people living there so that it could demolish the building and extend the parking lot. But the court ruled against the city, saying it should first find alternative accommodation.

A spokesperson for the group, Luwellyn Wilters, told Sowetan that they had been informed that the city would now build a wall around them.

“They are going to enclose us and forget about us. They going to enclose us so that nobody will see or notice that we are living here,” Wilters said.

“We don’t want that because we have been on the housing waiting list since 2003.

“The city even gave us a written acknowledgement that they know we are staying here, so why should we be hidden away like a dirty secret now?”

City spokesperson Kylie Hatton said : “We are looking at putting a fence up but it is not to hide them away, but to protect them.

“There are going to be cars there and we just want to be cautious. We are also looking at alternative options to house them.”

M&G: A tale of two stadiums

A tale of two stadiums

They have sports heroes on the Cape Flats too. Names of footballers such as Calvin Peterson, the Valentine brothers, Peter and Kevin, and Neville “The Athlone Ghost” Londt roll off the tongues of people whose memories stretch back to apartheid.

These are players revered as much for their skill on the pitch — at Athlone stadium, especially — as they are for their role in the political fight that was intertwined with sport in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.

“We watched and played Sacos [South African Council of Sport] sport here and discussed the matters of the day, becoming conscientised as youngsters,” says Athlone stadium manager Shahied Adams. “There were political rallies and you knew you had arrived as a sportsperson if you got on to this pitch.”

Sacos was the radical umbrella body for black sports organisations during apartheid that propagated the ideal of “no normal sport in an abnormal society”. Led by administrators such as Hassan Howa, it lobbied successfully for a moratorium on white South African teams playing international sport as a weapon against apartheid.

“That is why it hurts that Athlone is not a World Cup venue. This stadium is the home of nonracial sport and nonracialism in Cape Town. If you wanted the World Cup to reflect South Africa, its history and where we are now, then Athlone should have been used,” said Adams.

Initially touted as a host stadium by both the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town, Athlone was discarded in favour of building a new stadium in Green Point with a R4,5-billion price-tag and a 68 000-spectator capacity, 13 000 of which is temporary seating.

The decision to build the new stadium was at Fifa’s insistence: it preferred the camera-friendly aesthetics of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean near Green Point over the slums surrounding Athlone.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said she commissioned a study in 2006 to examine the viability of the new stadium and alternative sites: “Upgrading Newlands rugby stadium was the best option … But I was told in no uncertain terms by Fifa that it was either Green Point or Johannesburg. It was either we go ahead with building the new stadium or Cape Town was going to lose out on the World Cup.”

But Cape Town’s new stadium is far from Cape Town’s playing fields.

In Bonteheuwel, near Athlone, Bluegum United Football Club’s chairperson, Lindsay Daniels, is overseeing the coaching of their various junior sides: from under-nines to under-17s. With scant resources — both for the club and for the impoverished youngsters — he is determined to keep football alive.

“Sponsorship for grassroots football is hard to come by,” he said. “We get no money from Safa and we never hear from government departments like education and sport. We struggle, taking money from our pockets for kits, balls and training equipment.”

It is a common refrain among the numerous football club administrators. Said Claude Brown, the president of Atlantis Football Association and Aberdeen FC: “Safa provides training for our administrators and coaches — that’s great — but it’s hard to stomach things like a R1million incentive for Bafana to score a goal during the World Cup when we are getting nothing at grassroots level. And where is the development plan that should have been in place as a soccer legacy?”

Norman Arendse, president of Safa Cape Town, is candid about the “fatal” top-down approach to sports administration, which leaves grassroots structures “with crumbs”. But he’s also realistic. “Ideally, we should have upgraded Athlone — a monument to nonracialism — and spent that extra R3-billion to R4-billion on sports infrastructure in the townships. But that’s not how things work.”

For Wayne Weitz, the general secretary of Sea Point Swifts, which celebrate their 90th anniversary this year, football is not merely sport.

“We’ve nurtured role models and contributed to society during apartheid through teaching responsibility and political awareness. Now, too, when kids are faced with things like drugs, gangsterism and negativity all around, we try to change their lives,” said Weitz.

Hawks chief Anwa Dramat is reputed to have been politicised as a young footballer when learning about Sea Point Swifts’ history: the club was forcibly moved from Sea Point in the 1960s to Green Point because of the Group Areas Act. Later, they were moved to Athlone and finally to Bonteheuwel.

Weitz said holding matches at the stadium in Green Point will leave “no legacy whatsoever for communities where football is played. We can’t afford to go there, or to get tickets.”

The organising committee spin doctors and politicians will have us believe that football will come full circle to Green Point: the first football match in Cape Town is reputed to have been played there — but under Winchester Rules, which allowed the use of hands.

But that is a small circle that excludes those who live and breathe the game far away from the picturesque surroundings of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.

Voice of the Cape: Kewtown demands renovations

The Athlone Anti-Eviction Campaign has been going door-to-door in Kewtown gathering support for a petition against what it claims is the City’s lack of proper planning for the area. The campaign said yesterday it was attempting to ensure that the voices of residents of the area were heard.

But the City has hit back, saying that a consultation process is still under way and that community liaison officers and steering committees have been appointed. Grace Blouw, the city’s manager for existing housing, said a dedicated, substantial communication campaign was being run as part of the city’s planning efforts in the area.

The anti-eviction campaign said the petition would be used as a platform from which to launch a campaign that would include a list of demands being formally submitted to the city authorities, challenging the planned renovation of the area. Although upgrades were in the pipeline, an angry community claimed it had been excluded from the process. And it wanted to see work in the area given to unemployed people who lived there, rather than to outside contractors.

Last month, the Cape Argus reported that Kewtown was among 10 areas in which nearly 8 000 council houses and flats had been targeted for upgrading. Upgrades include maintenance repairs, internal and external painting, and general improvements to the outside facilities. At the time, the City acknowledged that a “planned programme” was needed to remedy the various problems in the ageing homes, such as damp and defective plumbing.

The revamp is part of a national upgrade programme, funded by the City’s annual housing subsidy allocation. The July 22 report said project steering committees were established in each of the areas for community liaison, and that funding approval had already been given for Kewtown, Scottsville and Scottsdene.

But yesterday Manuel Dyers, a Kewtown community representative, said the City needed to try to better understand the needs of the people. “We appreciate them dealing with our housing issues, but that’s just one of our problems. We are struggling with unemployment and instead of looking for a handout, we are willing to work for it,” he said. Blouw said it was part of the City’s strategy to appoint local people as far as possible for the work.

“Obviously, this depends on the skills available among local communities, because it is essential that the people who do the work do it properly. This project has not even gone to tender yet and we are still finalising the kind of temporary housing and how it will be set up,” Blouw said.

Residents also expressed concern over having to temporarily leave their homes during the renovations, despite alternative accommodation being provided. Mahierah Adams, a 40-year-old mother of two, said although her home was in bad shape, it was still better than any of the City’s temporary homes. “They want us to stay in those big containers with no heat. I want my children to be warm at night.” CAPE ARGUS