GSCID CEO, Anthony Davies and Margaret Elsworth, a concerned community member and member of St. Paul’s Church Rondebosch in front of the olive grove in the grounds of St Paul’s which is often the location of choice for vagrants looking for a place to bed down at night


GSCID CEO, Anthony Davies and Margaret Elsworth, a concerned community member and member of St. Paul’s Church Rondebosch in front of the olive grove in the grounds of St Paul’s which is often the location of choice for vagrants looking for a place to bed down at night

 

The ongoing deterioration of Rondebosch Village was the main topic of discussion at a recent meeting between GSCID CEO, Anthony Davies and Dr Margaret Elsworth, a concerned community member and leading member of St. Paul’s Church on Main Road, Rondebosch.

Elsworth highlighted three major problems affecting not only the church but also the broader Rondebosch community: heavy traffic congestion along sections of the main road causing a serious gridlock, ongoing vagrancy and related social issues and the loss of the historic Rondebosch Fountain which was such an iconic landmark in this area. “All of this is contributing to the disappearance of the charming character this area was once so well known for,” said Elsworth.

Rondebosch has been without its iconic fountain since a motor accident caused irreparable damage to it last year.  Efforts to replace the fountain have as yet not been successful. “A new fountain needs to erected,” said Elsworth, “to try and bring back some of the original Rondebosch character.”

The homeless in the area continue to present an ongoing challenge. “The church, with its open grounds, is a real target for vagrancy,” said Elsworth. She related how she usually arrives early on a Sunday morning armed with plastic bags to remove the waste and excrement that has accumulated around the church buildings but particularly on and near the steps where church goers enter the church.

 A vagrant making himself at home on the St Paul's church premises


A vagrant making himself at home on the St Paul’s Church premises

 

“We are under constant threat of more and more aggressive reprisals from vagrants for moving them off the church grounds,” explained Elsworth, “particularly on Sunday mornings from 8am to 11am when church members attend services.”  She related accounts of the church having experienced a backlash as several church members’ vehicles had recently been the target of ‘key scratching’. The two entrances makes for difficult monitoring, she went on to explain, “and although church members volunteer to patrol, they are predominantly elderly members and therefore vulnerable.”

“We try and keep the church open every week day,” said Elsworth, but they had recently fallen victim to the theft of one of two large bronze altar candlesticks, as well as two smaller candlesticks. It is believed that the theft was carried out under the guise of a worshipper wearing large flowing robes who then made off with the church’s belongings when no-one was looking.

 

 Margaret Elsworth with the remaining bronze candlestick similar to the one that was recently stolen from St Paul’s Church


Margaret Elsworth with the remaining bronze candlestick similar to the one that was recently stolen from St Paul’s Church

 

Davies conceded that vagrancy is a never ending social problem which needs to be managed compassionately whilst simultaneously trying to instil discipline amongst a group of people whose behaviour leaves a lot to be desired and is a major reason for the refuse build up in and degradation of the area.

Moving on to the issue of traffic congestion, Elsworth asserts that taxis are the main contributors to the snarl-up on the Main Road. “The sedan and minivan taxis are a law unto themselves,” she says. “They break every law in the book: parking on red and yellow lines; over staying parking  times ; doing u-turns over solid lines and disturbing the general flow of traffic along this section of the main road causing the gridlock.”

Although traffic congestion is endemic all along the Main Road, Davies acknowledged that it is particularly severe at this Rondebosch intersection. He believes the answer is to get all interested parties and role players together to form an association to take responsibility and to deal with all the problematic issues.

“The situation requires a concerted effort to bring pressure to bear on the City of Cape Town and the local ward councillor to ensure that these challenges are attended to and that the City’s traffic and other by-laws are enforced,” said Davies.

Although the GSCID has on occasion assisted with a clean-up of St Paul’s grounds making use of the Straatwerk cleaning teams, the GSCID has limited resources and a more permanent solution needs to be found.

Davies emphasised that St Paul’s church is part of the broader business community and touched on the church’s role as a custodian of the Rondebosch CBD for more than 170 years.  “The bigger picture,” he said, “is to produce a better experience in Rondebosch which means a safer and cleaner community, free of crime.“ He appealed to the business community to become more involved and to play a more active role in uplifting the area.

Going forward the church, in conjunction with the GSCID, is intending to host a public meeting for role-players and decision-makers to discuss how best the Rondebosch business community can work together to tackle the problems identified.

 

 

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