R3 million allocated, but Mdantsane swimming pool remains in ruins
By Khuthala Nandipha
The Department of Education in the province has made it clear that swimming is not part of its curriculum, and there is no indication that it will be in the near future. The Buffalo City Municipality Metro (BCMM) says ‘it is not the competence or responsibility of local government to ensure that people can swim’. So where will young people learn how to swim?
The suburbia side of the Metro is spoilt for choice when it comes to public swimming facilities. There is the pay to use Orient Complex in Quigney, Waterworld in Wesbank and Joan Harrison Swimming in Selborne. There is also pools in Parkside, King Williams Town and Zwelitsha.
Mdantsane locals are however not so lucky, as their public swimming pool in zone 2 closed down in the 1980s. In 2018, Buffalo City Metro committed to its refurbishment for a whopping R3 million. In January 2020, the abandoned pool is still not ready for use despite being scheduled to open in December 2018. So far, the municipality has removed dilapidated brick walls and an abandoned partially-completed concrete block wall. The pool was closed down following years of lack of maintenance under the National Party government.
According to construction companies and pool builders, it costs between R100 000 to R300 000 to build a pool from scratch, with the price depending on the size.
The Jade Foundation NPC’s Ronnie Gubevu founded the Mdantsane Swimming Club at the beginning of 2019 to accommodate school children who have no access to swimming facilities. The Club had no funds to refurbish the current pool or build a new one. Motion Fitness Gym at zone 6 sponsored the use of their Olympic size heated pool for the children to train.
Gubevu hosted the first-ever swimming Gala in Mdantsane at the gym in July 2019 with over fifty swimmers from the Club and the Ruth Belonsky Swimming Club in Parkside.
“The majority of the kids swam for the first time in February 2019 and they could easily compete within seven months. As a coach, I was proud to see them being able to compete with seasoned swimmers,” said Gubevu.
Following the alarming number of deaths by drowning in Buffalo City in 2019, with at least six lives of school-going children lost, the Metro says public safety is always a concern.
“Our pools have lifeguards that are skilled in CPR and as well as the beaches. All our beaches have warning signs which need to be obeyed. The metro has a rescue services base on the Buffalo River. Bylaws regarding alcohol use at the beach also are a way that the metro seeks to ensure that bathers are safe and lucid at all times,” said Samkelo Ngwenya, spokesperson for BCMM.
MEC for Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Fezeka Bayeni has plans for her term to ensure that a special focus is made on the sporting codes that black children have had no access to, such as swimming.
“It is our responsibility within the District development model to ensure that schools and communities have adequate facilities to promote and nurture sport. We cannot excel if we don’t have proper facilities that are maintained. It is high time we start being known for more than just soccer, netball and boxing. Children must do canoeing and water polo and compete with the best".
She added that going into schools with these programmes is the best approach to harness talent while children are still young. “We grew up swimming in dams doing backstrokes; children in villages still swim this way. The basics are there, we just need proper pools and training,” she concluded.