Vandals overrun Kalushi square

The Solomon Mahlangu Freedom Square in Mamelodi, which cost R49m to upgrade, has been vandalised and is now a haven for drug addicts and homeless people.

The square, at the entrance of the sprawling township east of Pretoria, which set the municipality back almost R50m for its first phase alone, was meant to be a tourist attraction.

When Sowetan visited the square this week it found the artwork on its walls damaged and its fence, toilets and other equipment stolen.

Aubrey Motau, an artist from the Mamelodi Art and Culture Forum, said the square was supposed to be an important site for locals, especially artists.

"My heart bleeds every time I pass the Solomon Mahlangu Square because it is a site where young people of Mamelodi and tourists should learn about the history of Mamelodi and the history of Solomon Mahlangu," he said.

Motaung said it was sad that the square had been allowed to go to ruin.

Busi Ga Mgiba, a local poet and coordinator of the forum, said: "I'm embarrassed because the place no longer looks the same. Artists were supposed to put up stalls and sell their art but instead drug addicts have taken over."

Ga Mgiba said they were called by the City of Tshwane in February and asked to come up with ideas on how the square could be renovated.

Ga Mgiba said they were still waiting for a feedback from the city.

"We plead with the City of Tshwane to give us the place so we can turn it around and use it," Ga Mgiba said.

Selinah Phasa, 45, a local resident, said she had recently visited the square with her children in an effort to teach them about the freedom fighter also known as Kalushi and found his statue vandalised.

"Now I don't even know what to tell my kids about this person who's our national hero," Phasa said.

City of Tshwane spokesperson Lindela Mashigo confirmed that the square was upgraded in the 2015/2016 financial year for R49m.

"Subsequent to the upgrading the facility was vandalised. The vandalism resulted in the entire electrical connections and ablution facilities of the facility being damaged extensively," Mashigo said.

He said the square was not in a "conducive condition" to host events because it does not have safe and operational electricity or ablution facilities.

"In the meantime, the city has submitted insurance claims and is awaiting the finalisation of the insurance process to restore the facility. Once the facility is restored and compliant with the relevant occupational health and safety standards the facility will be reopened for functions," Mashigo said.

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