On Saturday August 21st, approximately 200 people offered their time and labour to turn a local park from dirty to delightful. The Francis Oberholzer park between Lawn and High Streets in Rosettenville was in a neglected state and was used as a dumping site by some unscrupulous citizens. In a few short hours however, the place was transformed because of the care shown by local Southerners who came together under the banner of “Safer South.”
There is a lot of research to support the theory that dirty spaces attract crime and clean spaces deter criminals. If a community looks derelict and dirty, this sends a message to criminals that people don’t care about their community and therefore it’s open season for their criminal activities. When active citizens take pride in their surroundings, this sends a message to criminals that things will not be made easy for them. People may feel powerless to stand up to the drug dealers, thieves and pimps with whom we share these streets. But they do have the power to care for their public spaces. If we can fill our parks with families and children, criminals will not feel welcome there. To put it simply, it’s about “good” pushing back “bad.”
This was the rationale behind this planned clean up of the Francis Oberholzer park. The idea is to clean this space, keep it clean, and then to start using it for family-oriented activities. Local churches took the lead and mobilised their people to support. There were scenes of adults and children from all cultural backgrounds walking through the park and on surrounding streets, plastic bags and rakes in hand. The mood was jovial and in the bright sunshine of a late winter’s day, we realised that we do have the power to make a difference in our community. This was the first of what we hope will be many collective actions, taken together for the good of the South. A special thanks to our sponsors First Rand Foundation and Lombard Insurance for the borewors rolls and cold drink, to Pikitup for the bags, gloves and compactor, and to City Parks for the t-shirts.
Written by Stacey Dlamini for Heartlines “Safer South”