ARRA Committee members were invited to be present at Venning Park late in April for an inspection of the park by the Tshwane Executive Mayor, Mr Randall Williams. Walking through the park to the meeting point, Linda Tyrrell (ARRA Chairperson) and Ina Roos were shocked to see the state of the park from up close. Vagrants had taken over all the buildings and were cooking, washing and creating an absolute mess in our formerly lovely “Rosarium” which, according to SA Venues, is filled with 3 000 rosebushes. None of these were evident on our visit.
In a short address to those present in front of the former restaurant, Linda said the Arcadia residents were happy that, after the deterioration which the park had suffered during the past 11 years, action was finally being taken by the City of Tshwane to give one of Tshwane’s crucial amenities back to residents. The following was reported in the Pretoria News of 26 April 2021.
Tyrrell said for years they have had to watch the three-hectare park, which featured a rose garden, date palms and a beautiful tea garden, being stripped and vandalised to the point where crime and prostitution had taken over completely. She said what used to be a place where many residents who lived in high-rise apartments and flats could visit to unwind was now a danger to them as many unsavoury elements had taken over.
She said repeated calls for action had fallen on deaf ears and owing to a lack of maintenance and visibility by the metro police, things had taken a turn for the worse.
“Open spaces are very important, especially for those living in flats because they also need time out from being in an enclosed space. These places give them the opportunity to take their children out, and now they cannot because they get threatened by criminals and homeless people who have taken refuge there.
It’s not just this park ... many parks in the city are in a bad state, including the Springbok Park in Hatfield, which used to be a venue where many people would go and take wedding photographs.”
Tyrrell said it would take a mammoth effort to bring parks back to their former glory but they hoped the City would remain steadfast. She urged the City to consider repairing the boundary fencing and perhaps locking the park at night to prevent people from entering and destroying the infrastructure.
The plan to clean up the park follows a visit by Mayor Randall Williams and a team of officials, who criticised the state of the once beautiful space and the fact that no effort was being made to restore and protect it, despite the criminal elements it harboured.
On a visit to the park over the weekend, Pretoria News found City of Tshwane officials already on site, cutting down overgrown trees and clearing the walkways around the park. Two Tshwane Metro Police Department officials were also seen monitoring activities at the park.
Ward 92 Councillor Leanne de Jager said they were pleased that Venning Park would finally be restored after the call for the vandalism, theft and lack of maintenance of the historic park to be addressed.
De Jager said they were pleased that, following the oversight visit by Williams last Monday, the Metro Police had removed more than 30 wrongdoers from the park, and put a stop to illegal occupation by replacing all locks to the outbuildings and repairing the gates.
Furthermore, she was happy that the area would be patrolled by the Metro Police daily, and any wrongdoers found at the park would be arrested in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.
“Preserving this historic park is particularly significant in that former president Nelson Mandela used to have tea there when he was the president of South Africa. We will not allow such a precious heritage site to be left to go to waste due to negligence,” De Jager said.