Belrail park turned taxi rank ’too dangerous’ for City

A year later, questions remain over Belrail play park.

The future of the Belrail play park still hangs in the balance a year after an illegal taxi rank sprang up there.

The taxis use the site despite complaints from the community. And municipal maintenance of the park has stopped because the City says the area is too dangerous for its staff and contractors.

Belrail neighbourhood watch member Dulcie van Wyk, who has lived in the area for 26 years, says unfulfilled promises are all she has to show for the year she has spent trying to get the City to do something about the taxis at the children’s park.

“The whole space has been messed up: it’s dirty, there’s broken bottles and no more grass. We’ve complained to the councillors, the Transport and Public Works MEC, Daylin Mitchell, and even the mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato, is aware of this,” she said.

The City had not met resident’s requests for signs telling the taxis to stay clear of the park.

“We’ve been begging for months. We heard from the City that they would design the boards, but we haven’t gotten the boards yet,” she said.

Northern News previously reported on the slow decline of the play park, after taxis starting operating from there (“Illegal taxi rank in Bellville,” Northern News, May 21, 2020).

Gerda Gerber, a member of the Bellville Community Police Forum, said they had struggled for a year to get the City to do repairs and maintenance at the park.

Their calls for action from the Transport and Public Works MEC had been “ignored”, Ms Gerber said. “The City and our sub-council councillor told us it’s not in their hands,” she said.

“I also recently received a mail from the City stating that they might not repair this park since its not suitable to be a open space but more a space to be developed.”

The mayor in a visit there a few weeks ago had said the park might be used as temporary taxi rank while the Bellville public transport hub was upgraded, she said.

Asked whether the park might be redeveloped into a taxi rank, Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said: “A way forward is being discussed. The area has since become too dangerous for City staff and contractors to enter, and all park maintenance has come to a standstill. There’ve been shootings in a bid for control of the turf, and staff has attempted to continue their work but been intimidated and chased away.”

As a result of no maintenance, over time the fence, grass surface and play equipment had been vandalised, causing the dilapidated condition of the park, he said.

Asked when residents could expect to see their play park restored to its former glory, he said: “Once the site is deemed safe for park maintenance to continue, the recreation and parks department will be in a position to effect meaningful changes to restore the park back to standard.”

Bellville police spokesman Captain Johnathan Blankenberg said they were working with the local neighbourhood watch to monitor the situation.

“We have been monitoring and patrolling the area ever since the recent taxi violence,” he said.

In July, two taxi drivers from Bellville were shot and wounded in Robert Sobukwe Road (“Hopes to end taxi war end rest on route closure,” Northern News, July 29).

Maxine Bezuidenhout, spokeswoman for the City’s Traffic Services, said the City was aware of the current situation on Robert Sobukwe Drive in Bellville.

“Urgent meetings are being held with all of the City of Cape Town’s role players as well as the Department of Transport, the South African Police Service and others,” she said.

The South African National Taxi Council and the mayor’s office did not provide comment by time of publication.