HECTORSPRUIT – A group of vandals destroyed Sivulindlela Community Centre’s Safe Park, located next to Thanda Primary School in Dindela, by tearing down the wire fence, ripping apart the jungle gym and partly demolishing the office building and toilet on Saturday and Monday. Windows were broken, burglar bars were ripped out, walls knocked down and the roof collapsed.
One of the Sivulindlela employees told Corridor Gazette that their troubles started mid-July, when school representatives approached them. The school reportedly wanted the land on which the Safe Park is situated to expand its premises, as it received a donation to build much-needed classrooms.
The centre’s employees have been utilising the Safe Park as an area where children can play and do homework under adult supervision since 2013.
They have also hosted a variety of events for children from the community during school and public holidays.
They asked the school representatives to present them with a written proposal detailing the compensation they would receive for the land, as they would need new land and facilities to continue their work.
On August 8, the Sivulindlela employees were made aware of a contractor and his staff removing the Safe Park’s fence. They were allegedly doing so on the school’s orders, and school representatives alleged that they had received permission from the local chief.
The Sivulindlela employees told the contractors to stop and sought help from the municipality. Municipal manager, Dan Ngwenya, reportedly visited the premises and addressed representatives of the two parties. He advised community members against vandalising the property.
The school allegedly held a meeting on Friday to discuss the way forward, but Sivulindlela employees could not attend.
On Saturday, two taxis full of armed people arrived at the premises and, shortly thereafter, started destroying the Safe Park.
The police were summoned and officers tried to restore calm. Once the protesters heard that a meeting with all the stakeholders was set for Monday, they calmed down and left.
According to Sivulindlela employees, only a handful of the vandals were local community members. They alleged the rest came from Mangweni.
Sivulindlela employees later visited the Komatipoort Police Station and opened a case of malicious damage to property.
On Monday, the vandals terrorised the Sivulindlela employees. The same two taxis full of people arrived and set out to destroy what was left of the Safe Park.
Once that was done, they arrived at Sivulindlela’s gates. The group spotted someone taking videos of the violence from a nearby vehicle and started throwing rocks and hitting it with branches.
The Sivulindlela employees locked themselves in the building and refused to leave, despite the group demanding to see the person in charge.
One of the employees went out to talk to them, but they only wanted to speak to “the person in charge”. They started threatening the employees with violence if they set foot on the Safe Park’s premises again.
The group reportedly only left the area around 14:00 on Monday afternoon.
Upon inquiry, Sibongile Msibi, the principal of Thanda Primary, stated that the school had no involvement in the incidents of vandalism and that it was a “community thing”.
The Sivulindlela employees told Corridor Gazette that they now have to wait for the police investigation to proceed.