The tale of two swimming pool complexes, what sets them apart?
By Khuthala Nandipha
Selborne Primary school boys launched two brand new swimming pools on Friday, February 7, 2020 after nine months of breaking ground. The Jason Murray Aquatics Centre is a new complex comprising of two swimming pools and a change room facility.
“The first swimming pool will double up as a water polo pool and a pool that will be used to host our galas. The second swimming pool is a Learn to Swim pool aimed specifically at teaching our Grade RR and Grade R boys how to swim and become water safe,” said Riaan Bisschoff, the school headmaster.
This pool is a 12,5m by 5m and is shallow throughout, allowing the boys to stand. Bisschoff said the need for the complex is because at Selborne they believe that swimming is a vital life skill that all boys must have. “Living in East London with our sea, rivers and pools, it is vital that all boys are water safe. The complex is designed to assist boys to become water safe, whilst providing a venue to allow our boys to enjoy the benefits of swimming at school,” he added.
Construction on the complex commenced in June of 2019 and was ready for hand over at the beginning of the school year. According to the constructor of the pool, projects of this nature can cost anything from R300 000 to R500 000. The alarmingly high rate of drownings in the Buffalo City Municipality has raised concerns over the lack of swimming skills in the youth.
In Mdantsane, zone 2 work has begun on the renovations of an Olympics size swimming pool that was closed down in the 1980s due to lack of maintenance by the then government. The Metro allocated R3 million for its renovations in 2018. The pool is situated off Saule Drive next to Orlando stadium.
In February 2020, the swimming pool has remained untouched and is nowhere near being ready for use. Mdantsane children aged 9 to 13 have gotten so tired of waiting that they swim naked in the slimy rain water covered with all kinds of germs and debris.
The pool is not open for public use so the children, due to the unbearable weather conditions and their desire to learn how to swim in a proper pool, they climb over the fence and swim, exposing themselves to diseases and the risk of drowning without adult supervision.
They are excited about the prospect of the pool opening officially and being available to them. The children come from as far as zone 1, Jiji and zone 5 just to swim in dirty waters.
“We have been swimming here for a very long time, we have nowhere else to swim. The old people have been promising that the pool will be cleaned and opened. We won’t get sick, we have been doing this for a while and we are fine,” said the boys.
“We have fenced the site, demolished the old structures on site, removed the dunking wall and palisade fencing as well as earth works. The actual construction of the pool will be done in phases and the matter is still under the procurement processes,” said Metro spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya.
The swimming pool was scheduled to open in 2019, and at this stage, there is no targeted date.
Ngwenya said the process will resume once the job has been awarded. “We will proceed with refurbishment and tiling of swimming pool, drainage to swimming pool, filtration plant to swimming pool, construction of a small swimming pool, a caretaker’s cottage, ablution facilities, a ticket office, pump house, admin offices, fencing and parking area,” promised Ngwenya.
“This swimming pool was built to develop the skill of a poor child, to help them have options in life and know that sport is important,” said a parent. However, he says according to the local councillor, the tender will be given to someone from the Transkei when there is someone from Buffalo City who is bidding.
The local gentleman who wants the contract threatened to halt the project if an outsider gets it. “The ANC that I voted for does not seem to be run by educated people. The fat cats will hinder the process of this swimming pool with their greed. The Ward 42 councillor is too old to be able to mediate and ensure that the interests of the children are prioritised,” he said.