Clairwood heads for a major clean-up

Confiscate their properties. This is the call to the eThekwini Municipality should property owners in Clairwood fail to renovate their dilapidated, derelict homes - many abandoned decades ago.

The municipality is proposing to spend millions of rands in upgrading Clairwood - one of the first Indian neighbourhoods in South Africa - where some of the houses were built as early as 1910. While many of the properties have since been listed with the National Monuments Council, their state of disrepair leaves many tourists to the suburb stunned.

The municipality hopes to market the suburb as a heritage route which could form part of a tourism trail.

But current residents of the Cinderella suburb, aptly referred to, as it was constantly shunned by the apartheid city council, have called on the municipality to ensure that property owners, too, were working at cleaning up Clairwood.

They say that erecting pavements, resurfacing roads and planting trees would amount to nothing if the "shocking state" of the majority of the crumbling houses was not addressed.

Almost every second property in Clairwood has become a scrapyard with old car wrecks littering the environment.

Illegal dumping, from building rubble to household refuse, is common in Clairwood as many of the properties have been abandoned by their owners, mainly because of the decades of uncertainty.

The council's area manager for Clairwood, Lee D'Eathe, said yesterday that a recent public presentation of a precinct plan on the future of the suburb was encouraging and that many proposals from residents and local stakeholders would be looked at.

He says the project will ensure a concerted effort to clean all the municipal sites and motivate private owners of properties to do likewise - be it through compulsion through the city by-laws or through moral appeal.

The precinct plan recommends, among other things, an upgrading of the street infrastructure, pavements and lighting.

It says heavy-duty trucks and buses were using the local road network, damaging the road surface and sidewalks. The residential sites have not been maintained, resulting in progressive decay, shack farming and low property values.

D'Eathe says the precinct plans aims to address key strategies that had been identified. These include: residential revitalisation of Clairwood and physical redevelopment and to secure the residential core. It also wants to implement strong urban management mechanisms to combat progressive decay, loss of management control and stabilise the area.

"What we envision is a vibrant community which will improve the lives and provide quality living
conditions for the people who live here," D'Eathe said.

Asked whether this was not merely another proposal plan only to be shelved until the next one is made public, D'Eathe said: "One can understand community frustration . . . this is a huge task, there area various challenges, but the city is committing itself to ensuring change. Trust us."

This article was originally published on page 1 of Daily News on November 15, 2004

Article by: Veven Bisetty