Security around Vilakazi Street to be improved

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Government and tourism stakeholders operating around the Vilakazi Precinct will tackle security issues around the internationally renowned heritage site. 

The Department of Tourism Director-General, Victor Tharage, on Wednesday led a senior multi-departmental delegation to meet with tourism stakeholders operating in the precinct in Soweto. 

Vilakazi Street, where Nobel Laureates President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu once lived, is popular amongst local and international visitors, with eateries such as Sakhumzi, Nambitha and Vuyos adding to the allure of the precinct. Interactive public artworks and a variety of curio stalls enhance the vibrancy of the zone. 

Mandela’s house was converted into a museum and is now called the Mandela House Museum. It’s open to public tours. Not far from the house, on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi streets, is the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum that was established to commemorate the Soweto Uprising of 1976. 

The memorial was erected in the early 1990s, not far from where Pieterson was shot, in remembrance of those who died or were injured on 16 June 1976, now celebrated as Youth Day. 

According to the business community operating in the area, tourists are attacked or robbed, vehicles are broken into and sometimes get stolen while tourists are at the Mandela museum and other places in the area. 

Local residents also complain about young men who smoke nyaope (a local drug) and loiter around the area, waiting to rob tourists. 

At the meeting, it was proposed that a satellite police station be set up, with continuous patrols to improve safety in the area. 

Other challenges raised included the historic spatial planning deficiencies, which continue to hinder the expansion of the pristine tourism destination to its full potential. 

Public amenities like ablution, parking, pedestrian walk ways, bicycle lanes, as well as decongested public transport routes would need to be put in place to help boost tourism. 

The immediate concern for many was safety and the crime rate within the precinct, where syndicates are targeting tourists.

The situation is exacerbated by illegal tour guides and parking attendants hustling in the precinct.  

City efforts to aid tourism 

On progress made by the City of Johannesburg, Thabang Sithole, who is responsible for Strategic Urban Planning, said interventions have been implemented with regards to parking and traffic assessment. 

“We plan to pilot the idea of using Vilakazi Street as a one-way street during weekends, as part of our traffic assessment and the impact thereof. We urge you to give us feedback regarding this intervention,” Sithole told the meeting. 

The city is also considering rezoning the area, which it says will help stimulate the economy for the people of Soweto, who can use their properties to make money. 

Tharage said the framework for the Vilakazi Street precinct will include plans for a community policing forum (CPF), as well as supporting the existing tourism enterprises with business support services ranging from funding processes, management systems and business promotion. 

“Our aim is to establish and coordinate linkages across all spheres of government and other precincts, routes and municipal management structures, with the view of increasing the length of stay, spend and repeat visitation in line with the department’s Domestic Tourism Strategy. 

“It should not matter whether the precinct is in the township or not. It must be a world class, uniquely South Africa destination and that is what this place will sooner or later start looking like,” Tharage said. 

Shadrack Motau, a Vilakazi community leader, told SAnews that they want the area to be safe for tourists. 

“We don’t tolerate criminal activity and we want the police to monitor the area day and night. Crime scares tourists,” he said. 

Motau supported the idea of a CPF operating in the area. 

The Department of Tourism has resolved from its recent Lekgotla to adopt the Vilakazi Street Development as a pilot model for the development of a blueprint for township tourism precincts and has already developed a framework for consultation with the stakeholder and various provincial and national government agencies. –