Durban to convert neglected properties into new cultural precinct

A R1.5 billion development to transform grubby, abandoned buildings in the Durban CBD and Waterfront precinct into a vibrant cultural hub is on the cards.

The eThekwini Municipality is considering buying buildings in the North and South Beach areas that have deteriorated into unhygienic hovels and converting them into cultural facilities and art centres.

Last week, the city approved funding to the tune of R497 million to build a new central library between the Workshop Shopping Centre and the Virgin Active gym in the city centre.

The head of the parks, recreation and cemeteries department, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, said a broader document outlining the city's social cohesion programme would be presented to council soon.

Ngcobo said the R1.5bn funding his department wanted would be spent over the next five years.
The money would be pumped into infrastructure development and education campaigns to encourage people to watch local match and to promote cultural events linked to sports.

Last week, Ngcobo's department came under fire for spending ratepayers' money on attempts to entice people to watch sports events. The city spent R125 000 on 15 000 tickets to the match between AmaZulu FC and Golden Arrows, held at the weekend.

Tickets were given to four Durban sports teams and others were for distribution at schools and in council wards.

A sum of R1.5 million was budgeted for such exercises, but Ngcobo said this was not enough to cover all social cohesion programmes in the city. No price tag could be put on "racial integration".

Ngcobo said that in the past two years, the parks, recreation and culture unit had begun a series of conversations with role players in sport, arts, culture and recreation to determine the part these sectors could play in driving social cohesion in the city.

He said a substantial number of facilities had reached a 50 percent deterioration rate and those buildings that were relevant to the achievement of the vision of social cohesion would be prioritised for rehabilitation.

"There are many decaying buildings in the North and South Beach areas and we do not have any cultural centres. Through this programme we will achieve urban regeneration and attract people of all racial groups to learn more about the city's history," he said.

Other programmes in the pipeline include establishing a cultural museum in Cato Manor, where King Goodwill Zwelithini's mother is buried.

Referring to the slain Struggle lawyer, Ngcobo said: "We also want to acquire Griffiths Mxenge's house in Umlazi and houses in KwaMashu K section that were burnt down during apartheid and turn them into museums."

(The Mercury)

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