The bustling CBD of Johannesburg is often associated with chaos, crime, and challenges. Still, for David van Niekerk, CEO of the Johannesburg Inner City Partnership (JICP), it is a place of immense potential and opportunity.
The Social Employment Fund (SEF), an integral part of the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition’s social and economic strategy, sees the state of the CBD as a chance for positive change as reported by South Africa The Good News. This fund supports Non-Profit Organisations dedicated to creating employment opportunities, revitalising the inner city, and transforming lives.
Recently, representatives from the SEF, DTIC, IDC, JICP, and the 12 supported NGOs embarked on a rooftop bus tour of the CBD, starting at the prestigious Rand Club. Their first destination was Ernest Oppenheimer Park.
Hoop Mania, an initiative by Boundless City, caught their attention. Through SEF funding, Boundless City successfully restored a dilapidated basketball court that drug users once frequented. By cleaning up the surroundings and employing safety ambassadors, the park has now become a secure space for basketball enthusiasts.
Resident Taona Mawere highlighted how playing basketball not only provided a safe haven for him and his friends but also instilled discipline, accountability, and a sense of community.
Boundless City also established an after-school program for learners in the Ansteys Building, offering a public library, homework assistance, and art projects.
Another SEF-supported project, The Literary District, set up libraries in Soweto and Alexandra and participated in an Earth Day initiative by planting numerous trees at Library Gardens.
Continuing the tour on the City Sightseeing Red Bus, the group arrived in Hillbrow, where they visited the Mould Empower Serve (MES) Assessment Center. There they met Dalu Cele and the Clean City SA team, who are actively combating waste in the CBD. Through training from Pikitup, Clean City SA is making significant strides in maintaining a clean inner city, benefiting small retailers and business owners.
Next, the tour headed to the BG Alexander Estate Astroturf, managed by Madulammoho Social Housing in partnership with MES. Zaine Da Silva from the Sport for Social Change Network (SSCN) introduced Sandile Mthiyane, a graduate of the Egolisquash youth development program. Mthiyane, with his infectious humour, shared how the after-school programs not only teach sports like a street racket, squash, skateboarding, and boxing but also impart valuable life skills and encourage activities such as gardening and chess. Parents have noticed positive changes in their children, including increased respect, responsibility, and discipline.
Leona Pienaar, CEO of MES, highlighted the diverse services provided by the organisation. As an NPO that addresses homelessness and uplifts inner-city communities, MES offers modular services for different target groups. SEF volunteers play an integral role in all services, from conducting outreach activations and providing health screenings to assisting with administrative tasks and supporting early childhood education.
The bus tour proved to be a transformative experience, challenging preconceived notions of Johannesburg’s CBD. Despite its challenges, Johannesburg shines like a diamond under pressure, and the SEF’s efforts are a testament to the city’s hidden gems waiting to be uncovered and cherished.
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Photo: Facebook / @City of Joburg