Thieves strip, deface Donkin Reserve

LIGHTS OUT: Goolam Ahamed and his daughter, Naeela, 4, look at a vandalised light fitting at the Donkin Reserve In Port Elizabeth. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
LIGHTS OUT: Goolam Ahamed and his daughter, Naeela, 4, look at a vandalised light fitting at the Donkin Reserve In Port Elizabeth. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

BRAZEN thieves are defacing and ravaging one of Port Elizabeth’s most iconic tourist spots – under the full glare of closed-circuit (CCTV) cameras.

The revamped Donkin Reserve in the historical heart of the city, a popular attraction for visitors at this time of year, has become a happy hunting ground for criminals and vandals.

Almost all of the light bulbs and their casings along the Donkin’s walkways and at its skate park have been damaged or stolen, and pieces of Bay artist Duncan Stewart’s eye-catching steel sculpture, River Memory, are also vanishing by the day.

A concerned Central resident warned this was the tip of the iceberg and that artists Anthony Harris and Conrad Geel’s iconic Voting Line installation, which features a metal silhouette of a waving Nelson Mandela, could be next if the situation was not addressed urgently.

The absence of lighting is also a safety threat after nightfall.

Ward 5 councillor Morne Steyn said vandalism at the Donkin had been brought to his attention and he had reported it to the metro’s safety and security directorate.

The DA councillor said security at the Donkin was not up to scratch and that enforcement was lacking.

“What concerns me more than anything is the fact that there are CCTV cameras, which are not being used efficiently,” he said.

“The issues at the Donkin need to be addressed, and we have made recommendations to the safety and security directorate to use the cameras to prevent the problem.”

Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) chief executive Pierre Voges said he was aware of the vandalism, which was one of the agency’s biggest problems.

Public art and other initiatives in the area have been largely driven by the MBDA in an ongoing bid to bring urban regeneration to the once-neglected historical heart of Port Elizabeth.

“The MBDA is responsible for innovative upgrades to try and make the city competitive,” Voges said.

“Our mandate does not include maintenance – that is the function of the metro. However, the agency is taking over more and more maintenance work.” He said the MBDA was lobbying the metro for additional maintenance money to ensure upgrades did not become dysfunctional.

Meanwhile, Stewart said the situation was indicative of the sad state of affairs in the country and he was not surprised that his sculpture was being stripped.

“If the guys at the top can get away with doing wrong, everyone else will have a ‘why can’t we’ attitude.

“This is tragic for public art but in the context of how things are in the country at the moment, I am not surprised,” Stewart said.

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said he was unable to comment at this point. – Xolisa Phillip

2 thoughts on “Thieves strip, deface Donkin Reserve

  • December 30, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    I featured, rather unglamorously, in the local The Herald yesterday thanks to vandals – or rather ‘desperados’, who have taken to cannibalising a public artwork I had the privilege of being participating in. Two days ago I received a surprize call from a reporter at The Herald asking me for my comment. And as much as I appreciate and stand by what was then published, I wanted to take a moment to add a brighter perspective on the whole affair.

    The term ‘desperado’ refers to a person with no hope, and comes from the Spanish word esperanza which means hope. Adding “des” to the front makes it an antonym, ‘without’ hope. A desperado therefore is essentially the adjective describing a human being living without hope. Some dictionaries go further to define it as a violent criminal who is not afraid of getting hurt or caught. Sound familiar?
    I choose this word because I think it points most accurately to the fundamental issue at hand, which is not primarily that I am both angry and saddened at the vandalization of public artwork – both of which are understatements…..but because I believe one of the fundamental challenges facing society, both within our local metro and beyond…possibly even on a global scale, is the sense of hopelessness people are living with.

    Proverbs 29 (Message Bible) says, ‘When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans’….and ‘A leader of good judgment gives stability; an exploiting leader leaves a trail of waste’. Because of ungodly, incompetent leaders, the people will be oppressed and there will be a breakdown of order in society (or just as a child will be rude and disrespectful toward the elder). There is hardly any conduct more offensive, or more suited to drive our minds to hopelessness than when the worst examples of every sort are publicly exhibited by people in positions of authority, with no action or word of criticism brought against them whilst instead the majority tragically offer their approval.

    This is the quagmire that breeds desperados…..and vandals.

    And as much as I believe the moral fibre of a country is not divorced from the values held by the ruling leadership – who themselves are governed by personal worldviews and values, you and me – the general citizen, will ultimately have to account for our individual works and words. It is easy to shift blame onto others, ultimately I must look at my own life and ask how am I living to fight the hopelessness around me. You see, there resides within me a broken, selfish, sinfulness that no amount of legislation will reform. The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9) and ultimately seeks to stave off death’s final kiss by doing whatever it must to survive.

    There is another way. A much better, hope-filled way. Despite the seemingly depressing environment in which we live and breathe..… you and I are invited to enjoy an amazing hope – a supernatural hope. A hope worth sharing. And that hope – which is available for the most desperate desperado to the highest office in the land – is the Gospel. The life transforming message of radical sin in every human heart and radical salvation through faith in Christ alone – a definite, unchanging, indestructible message of hope. When we attempt to govern ourselves, we seek our own selfish ways and desires in the short-sighted misguided belief that these seventy odd years on earth are all we have. Yet when Christ enters into our ailing hearts, when He becomes the Ruling Party in our souls – always Good, always Righteous, always True – He invites us into an eternal future, fueled with great hope now, where the treasures of peace, joy and righteousness can never be touched by the ‘hope-thieves’ in our lifetime.

  • December 29, 2014 at 10:46 am

    The Horse monument has also had bronze parts stolen from it and is permanently covered in pigeon droppings.The statue would be better moved to St George’s park.The ruling party have no idea of the words maintenance and security!The poor are following the examples of our leaders like the Hero of Nkandla by helping themselves to whatever they can.The Donkin has become a symbol of A.N.C. incompetence! Historic buildings altered illegally and just left as they are.The lower slopes of the Donkin are strewn with weeds,rocks and rubbish.Youths playing football bouncing balls against art works!Where in the world would anyone let such a historic area decline?Port Elizabeth has lost it’s pride in itself! The ruling part have proved themselves unfit to run Escom,S.A.A., Transnet, S.A.B.C.Port Elizabeth or anything else!Roll on 2016 the D.A. are going to take Port Elizabeth with a landslide!


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