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Bring back Bulawayo council parks' glory

by Staff reporter
14 Dec 2022 at 06:30hrs | Views
FOR most parents in Bulawayo, council parks were safe places where they knew their children could innocently play and have fun.

During Christmas time, parks like Centenary Park along Leopold Takawira Street and Mpopoma Park would be lit with Christmas decorations; Christmas carols would be sung by individuals who were clearly engulfed by the festive mood.

Father Christmas stationed at the parks for pictures and entertaining the little ones would occasionally say his famous "hoo hoo," a sound that caught the attention of many children, slowly luring them to him.

During the course of the year, the parks were a safe haven for reading and spending leisure time, including taking pictures.

Colourful flowers that could easily change one's mood from the downbeat to jovial would be the order of the day.

However, this has all become folk tales that children are told by their parents and elder siblings as most parks are now the total shadow of their former beauty. Most of them are now unkempt and have become hideouts for delinquents.

Chronicle took a snap survey around the city to see the facilities and their conditions.

Nkulumane Park, which is situated behind Nkulumane High School, has become a perfect hideout for children who find pleasure in running away from school.

It is characterised by tall and unmaintained grass. Some beds with a few blooming flowers try to give the area some sunshine, but that is all overpowered by the gloomy swings and slides that do not look safe for a child to get on.
Mrs Nonhlanhla Tshabalala (50), who lives nearby, said the park is now inviting thieves and making it easy for delinquents to have a chilling area where they spend most their time smoking marijuana and taking other banned intoxicants.

She said as residents whose houses face the park, they no longer feel safe, also because drunkards have found a place to hang out in.

"We lock our gates as early as 5pm because the area is not safe at night, especially during winter when it gets dark fast and Zesa is gone. We would really appreciate it if BCC and any other relevant authority would make an effort to clean the parks and even put lights there," said Mrs Tshabalala.

Chronicle visited Sizinda Park which is characterised by dry patches of where there should be lawn and flowers. A few children are seen running around playing football. There is no sign to show it is a children's park.

A woman who preferred to remain anonymous said they had hoped that the park would be fixed as the years progressed but its condition is worsening. She said the community hopes one day the park will be renovated to get it back to the state it used to be.

"Parks should be a safe space for children. It should be a place where children can play around and a parent will not worry because they will know their child is safe," she said.

Unlike most of the parks that are in the residential areas, Mpopoma Park is probably the only one in the city that is slowly but surely regaining its former glory.

Colourful paintings and beautiful swings welcome visitors. Christmas decorations are already hanging on the poles and people are anxiously waiting for the annual Christmas celebration that usually happens during this time.

The garden has blooming flowers that are well kept. The benches, that can be easily used for weddings and photoshoots, have a designed shade that attracts anyone.

Mrs Sanele Dube, who lives near the park, said she has been closely monitoring the renovations that started around June and is happy with the progress so far. She believes the local councillor is the one who made it possible for the park to be well renovated.

"Although they still haven't opened the park for everyone to use, it is now looking good. The swings are in good shape, the see-saws and the other playground toys are all in great shape. I hope this year the train that gave us a treat as children will also be brought out and they also get to experience the same pleasure," she said.

Ms Sihle Ncube, a resident, said she used to enjoy sitting in the garden when she was still at high school as that was her reading place.

She said now that she is at university, she is looking forward to coming back to her reading spot once the garden is opened.

"The park wasn't just my favourite place for reading and spending leisure time. I remember there was a time Sandra Ndebele performed at the park during the Christmas parties. I hope now that the park has been renovated, famous artistes will start having their gigs this side," said Ms Ncube.

Source - The Chronicle