WATCH: City Parks allegedly wants receipts from residents who spent own money on cleaning park

Lonehill resident Gerdus Jacobsz after cleaning the Buchner Crescent Park in the area in Johannesburg, 31 July 2020. Residents formed action group to clean up the park. City Park is demanding the spent on cleaning the park. Picture; Nigel Sibanda

The people of Buchner Crescent have removed more than 11 tons of rubbish, including plastic, condoms and empty alcohol bottles. They have not only cut the grass with their own equipment and fuel for lawnmowers, but have also planted flowers costing thousands of rands.

Residents of Lonehill in Johannesburg were so tired of their local park being an ugly and littered place – used illegally for parking – that they took matters into their own hands and did a clean-up.

But that angered City Parks, which has demanded receipts for the money they spent and accused them of trying to profit from council land.

The people of Buchner Crescent have removed more than 11 tons of rubbish, including plastic, condoms and empty alcohol bottles. They have not only cut the grass with their own equipment and fuel for lawnmowers, but have also planted flowers costing thousands of rands.

UPDATE: City Parks issues warning to residents trying to tidy up their local park

Lonehill residents Pumela Siwundla (L) and Gerdus Jacobsz take away rubble after cleaning Buchner Crescent Park in the area in Johannesburg, 31 July 2020. Residents formed action group to clean up the park. City Park is demanding the spent on cleaning the park. Picture; Nigel Sibanda

In addition, they have acquired playground and open-air gym equipment, which they have also installed, in an effort to make the place more appealing for families. Resident Gerdus Jacobsz said a survey was done of the 59 households which surround the park, asking whether they would be willing to join forces in taking ownership of the park.

He said all households agreed to take time out on weekends to assist in cleaning the park while the rest said they would donate equipment, plants, or jungle gyms because children enjoyed playing in the park and others preferred to take their dogs for walks. The residents of the crescent said they pay an estimated R1 million a month in rates, yet their park is neglected and their street lights don’t work.

“We told City Parks we are not happy because we do not see where our money goes to,” said Jacobsz. “During lockdown Level 3, we started cleaning the park again because we wanted to enjoy it.”

Since then, they have employed five people who needed a job to daily come and clean the park, water the plants and the trees and rake the leaves. He said the money used to pay for this was generated from the residents’ pockets.

“We want to create something City Parks can be proud of. Our community is fully engaged in taking care of the park.”

But City Parks then demanded to see the receipts for the money the residents had spent. This was not so they could get refunded, said another resident, “but probably so they could make themselves look good in their annual report”. Jacobz added that City Parks “have blamed us for profiteering”.

“How is this possible when we have paid for the petrol for the lawnmowers and the trailers to carry away the waste?” He added: “Public land does not belong to the city and that is why we feel we deserve full ownership of the park, because we can take better care of our park.”

Jacobsz said the residents have handed over a proposal to Joe Smith at City Parks, in which they are asking for full ownership of the park or a joint partnership. To date, they have not received a response from City Parks. Another resident, Lisa de Kock, donated flowers to the value of R30,000 which were planted in the park.

Lonehill residents Pumela Siwundla (L) and Gerdus Jacobsz take away rubble after cleaning Buchner Crescent Park in the area in Johannesburg, 31 July 2020. Residents formed action group to clean up the park. City Park is demanding the spent on cleaning the park. Picture; Nigel Sibanda

“We want to make the park beautiful. These flowers are donated from my garden they are very special to me,” she said.

“I am a landscaper by profession and I am more than happy to volunteer my services and time to making Buchner Crescent Park a place we can come to and enjoy with our families.”

City Parks had not responded to a request from comment by the time of publishing.

– sonrin@citizen.co.za

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