Neglected and forgotten; The once beautiful Centenary Park an eye sore!

25 Oct, 2021 - 00:10 0 Views
Neglected and forgotten; The  once beautiful Centenary Park an eye sore! The sad state of affairs at the Centenary Park in Bulawayo

The Chronicle

Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
It was once the epicentre of entertainment and relaxation in Bulawayo with scenic views and lush lawns for people to unwind during their spare time.

There was a miniature train that would move on scaled down rail tracks taking passengers around the park so that they could view the park.

This is the Centenary Park in Bulawayo, a place that was once the epitome of picturesque and pride of the city. To show that it was a viable leisure spot, there is a tuck shop there (or what looks like one) where various snacks would be sold to the general public.

There is also a non-functional roller-skating rink, that, yesteryears, was a place where the youth at that time used as a meeting spot.

Remnants of a Put Put Golf course can be observed at the once vibrant recreational facility, but now it is a pale shadow of itself. The area that has the train is dilapidated showing years of neglect and it seems that it will not return as some of the rail tracks have been removed.

The ponds that once swelled with fish have run dry and the duck enclosure now has an unbearable stench. It might look neat when one passes by using the main road, Leopold Takawira Street, however, as one goes deeper into the park it’s a different story.

When a Chronicle news crew visited the park, it was not hard to notice the derelict structures, such as chairs, tables, and the ceilings at the tuck-shop are hanging. There are huge amounts of litter that has been left strewn all over the place, from fast food cardboard boxes, empty alcohol and soft drink bottles, plastics with the odd used condom here and there.

To say that it is an eye sore is an understatement, but what is surprising is that there are people who are seated at these places as they read, hold dates and some use it as a lovers’ nest.

Most of those found there are young, some of school going age, some in their uniforms as they feel comfortable to meet and have “fun” away from the prying eyes of the public.

The once lush green lawn that covered the area is a thing of the past, as the place looks parched, unkempt and something has to be done.  It has become the den of street dwellers as they are found all throughout the park especially at night. Walking around the park does not feel safe for anyone, especially when using paths that lead to secluded places.

There are high chances that one can be robbed.  A story comes to mind when in April last year, a man fatally stabbed a suspected thug who was trying to rob him.

John Gordon Crause (65) of Westondale allegedly stabbed an unidentified man in the ribcage using a knife and he died on the spot. Crause was listening to music on his phone through earphones when the deceased sidled up to him and demanded to have a conversation.The accused person ignored his victim who turned violent and ordered Crause to hand over his cellphone, cash and a bag resulting in a scuffle.

There are countless incidents of people being robbed at the very place while there are cases in past years, where a woman was raped there. It is not good reading online, where tourists who want to seek information about sites in Bulawayo can visit. The appraisals by people on Google Reviews about the Centenary Park are key in this regard.

There are over 800 reviews and one of them by Mr Jack Thulani Moyo who said the park was not safe.

“It was once a glorious place for picnics, studying, dates and all with its well-kept vegetation and plants and the general infrastructure. Now it’s not even as safe as it once was and hasn’t got much to offer as far as activities are concerned.  It needs to be revamped and restored to its former glory and even beyond it,” said Moyo.

Another reviewer Ms Rose-Anne Chowles said: “Still has the potential to be beautiful. As it stands, it’s cleanish but so very unkempt and overgrown and a robber’s paradise.”

Ms Michelle Ndiweni said teenagers have turned the park into a love nest.“Our Park is lovely, it’s a good place to relax whether alone or with company.  However, security is needed to maintain order and ensure socially acceptable behaviours are exhibited in the park.

“I have come across teenagers a couple of times in very compromising positions and that was very disturbing for me as the park is a public place for everyone to relax and unwind. I would suggest that if anyone wants to go to the park, they limit themselves to extremely public places so they are not offended by these naughty teenagers that are misusing the park,” she said.In the past, there are people who have tried to spruce up the park.

“One such person who led a campaign to clean the park and plant trees in 2019, is environmentalist Mr Tonderai Shoko who said there needs to be members of the public or corporates coming in and adopting certain sections of the park.

“What is needed from what I’ve seen, is for a challenge to corporates and individuals and community groups to adopt certain areas of the park. If we ask NRZ to adopt the train and that small infrastructure, the Delta Beverages or Schweppes, the Put Put Golf course, other ponds there or other places, we can get far. We can’t heap all the responsibility only to one entity or one person,” said Mr Shoko.

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