Gang violence threatening Helenvale pupil safety project

Gabriela Gotz, left, from German funder KfW and MBDA operations executive Debbie Hendricks
WORKING TOGETHER: Gabriela Gotz, left, from German funder KfW and MBDA operations executive Debbie Hendricks
Image: SUPPLIED

A project meant to provide safe pedestrian routes for pupils to and from school in Helenvale has stalled because of gang violence, intimidation and threats to contractors.

This is according to Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) operations executive and head of the safety and peace through urban upgrading (SPUU) programme, Debbie Hendricks, who bemoaned the stalling of the project.

She was speaking at an event on Thursday where the MBDA gave an update on the six-year projects funded by the KfW bank of Germany.

Hendricks said it was not all doom and gloom as they had completed  most of the projects for the Helenvale safety upgrade programme.

However, safety concerns mainly because of gang violence in the area have led to the construction of safe pedestrian routes being delayed by more than two years.

This has hampered development as the tender to construct a safe route from home to school with educational and fun elements incorporated into the infrastructure design, has been advertised four times since the contract was terminated in December 2017 because of gang violence, threats and intimidation.

At the time, R3.8m had been spent on the project.

The MBDA has not given up on having the project completed, but says it has struggled to get a “suitable contractor” and that companies that bid for it had high quotes because of security issues.

Hendricks said: “The objective was to increase the safety of the residents with special regard to the main component areas which include public space and physical infrastructure.” 

She said completed infrastructure projects included street lighting, sports field upgrades and refurbishment of sport facilities for four Helenvale schools.

“The idea of the youth centres was to provide access points for youth services in the Barcelona area through setting up of modified container units.

“The intention is a hub/services centre for youth promotion services and training.

“That is partially completed, the containers have been delivered and the only thing outstanding is to get municipality services such as sewer, water and electrical connection,” she said.

MBDA was also waiting for the Gelvandale police station upgrade to be completed before the victim support centre could be constructed.

Hendricks said R67.8m out of the budget of R80.6m had been spent and R6.8m had been lost due to delays and project terminations.

“With completion of major infrastructure upgrades only a few months ago, it is too soon to tell if the programme has met its goals and objectives.

“What we do know is that the economic spin-offs during project implementation were evident for all to see,” Hendricks said.

She said 22 SMMEs had benefited from the projects and much-needed jobs had been created for locals.

Economic development political boss councillor Marlon Daniels called on SMMEs to work together for the good of the community.

“This closing of sites and delaying work when there are disputes throws a spanner in the whole works and everything comes to a standstill and that results in opportunities being taken away from the metro and particularly in Helenvale.

“If we can prove that we can pull off one project without hindrances we will bring about investor confidence because there is need for Helenvale to be upgraded and revamped,” Daniels said.

Acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye said the MBDA had demonstrated commitment to transforming Helenvale and called on the community to work with the agency.

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