Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo highlight the importance of public spaces

Amanda Roji from Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo highlighted the change that a rejuvenated public park has on the community. Photo: Laura Pisanello


Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) hosted a public dialogue at the Origins Centre at Wits University on July 27 to discuss the importance of public spaces.

The dialogues are hosted four times a year to discuss the opportunities and challenges that are faced in public spaces and how the government, civil society, academia and the public can play a role.

Oscar van Heerden, the executive manager for strategic support at City Parks said, “Having active parks is a very key strategy. Deviant behaviour, vagrancy and vandalism take place when the parks aren’t active. When parks are being used and people are being active, then the deviant behaviour tends to dissipate.”

Sport has been recognised as an effective tool in fostering social and cultural cohesion, and the entity has highlighted the importance of not only working with the Johannesburg Development Agency and the Department of Public Safety but also with other organisations which can improve the state of public spaces.

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Allan Williams from Sport for Social Change, an organisation which focuses on using sport to create social change said, ” We’re excited to be working with JCPZ to work together to make a change for good.”

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo hosted a dialogue at the Origins Centre at Wits University to highlight the importance of public spaces. Photo: Laura Pisanello

An upgrade to the End Street North Park in Hillbrow has been used as an example of how a public space can be used to create more social cohesion as well as encourage the community to use public spaces.

The pilot project has shown a drastic change in the way the community uses the park. Boxing lessons have encouraged kids to become involved in sport and avoid anti-social behaviour. Homeless people living in the park have also begun to take pride in the park and play a role in keeping it clean.

Ayanda Roji from City Parks said, “Our idea with the pilot project was to deepen our understanding of the kind of issues surrounding our parks. Today we really wanted to showcase the ability of sport in terms of promoting social activity but also creating opportunities for all.”

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Laura Pisanello

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