Harare Square, in Khayelitsha, was a hive of activity when Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) held a festival, on Saturday November 26, to celebrate 10 years of development at the precinct.
Some of the project’s achievements include providing a platform to budding business owners to market their small businesses. Artists, dance groups and poets kept the audience entertained with their performances on Saturday.
Micheal Krause, chief executive officer (CEO) of VPUU, said the mission of the organisation was to curb the escalating crime rate in the community. He, however, called for the provision of the right tools.
He said that when he had first visited the area in 2005, he discovered that there were no proper youth centres and that budding business owners were battling to secure land.
Since they started working in the area, VPUU has embarked on vigorous development initiatives including building a new youth friendly centre, library, business units and a space hub, to mention few.
He said through their intervention they had managed to create employment opportunities and they were looking at better ways to further develop the community.
Crime statistics had shown a decline of about 40 percent.
At first, he said, it had been difficult to convince residents to buy into the ideas of transforming the community. Some were reluctant to allow them to start the project, and they had grappled with political interference and personal agendas. However, through extensive public engagement and community meetings, they managed to win the residents over.
Mr Krause said that when they had started working in the area they could see a number of businesses had the potential to thrive.
However, the owners were frustrated because they lacked financial muscle and skills to grow their businesses.
Through VPUU’s social development funds, he said they managed to generate funding. He said before they embarked on any project they needed to consult the community.
“In every facility that we have built we have made it a point that local people are employed and in some of our facilities the people who safe guard them are from this community.
“Through this, we aim to alleviate poverty and ensure that people understand that these facilities are meant to service them. We have transformed this community, and we are pleased to see that the little things we have done are appreciated,” he said.
Mr Krause said part of their plans included poetry sessions, every Friday or Saturday night, giving young people an opportunity to hone their skills and keep them away from crime.
Ward councillor Anele Gabuza thanked the organisation, saying some of the things which had been done by VPUU were meant to be done by him, but because he had a limited budget, he battled. He said the organisation played a vital role in fast tracking service delivery and that the area looked much better now and their facilities were in good condition.
Harare resident Velaphi Matolengwe said the organisation had done well, adding that he wished it was able to also build houses for the poor.