On Monday, Democratic Alliance mayoral candidate for Tshwane Solly Msimanga chartered the way forward with the club’s management in the wake of an eviction notice served on behalf of the Tshwane municipality.
“The mayor (Kgosientso Ramokgopa) has been trying to get these people out. They have been failing over and over again. They (Tshwane) have have been trying to hassle and bully these people that have been here. We now need to ask that somebody with relevant legal authority to intervene on this matter,” said Msimanga at the stadium.
“There is a huge paper trail to support a strong case for the people that are here right now. We have been following that for a number of years and we will make sure that, going forward, justice is served.”
Msimanga said the Caledonian Stadium “is a heritage site and cannot just be demolished when some people feel like they want to demolish it”.
In November 2014, Tshwane approved plans to rejuvenate the football grounds into an inner city park similar to Central Park in New York.
Tshwane mayoral spokesperson Blessing Manale said the football club was given its marching orders.
“We are proceeding with the development and we expect them to leave. They use delaying tactics under the guise that we have have not been properly consulted. We have done our proper consultation. They cannot force us to accept their development proposal which we don’t think is inclusive,” Manage told African News Agency.
“Our plan for the area is much more bigger, both from an economic, heritage point of view and also just from changing the face of the city. They (Arcadia Shepards FC) don’t have any substantive objections except the nostalgic attachment to that facility.”
Manale said the stadium will be transformed into an iconic central park.
“We will decide on the name we will give it. It is emerging into something you would call a central park. If you know New York central park – something like that, …having a nice area of people chilling and having a commercial space.”
Manale said Tshwane is mindful of the plight of more that 350 children who currently use the facility under Arcadia Shepards tutelage, but was adamant they would not put the municipality’s grand plans on ice.
“Remember, training football is not a fundamental human and social right. That is the first thing. There will be no major infringement of rights – social, economic or environmental. We have been saying to them ‘let us look into an alternative transitional mechanism so that you don’t suffer as a result of the development.
Unless you are saying the city must remain dirty, old because one soccer team cannot find an alternative training ground. We can take them to Pilditch (stadium), they can consider going to the township. They can’t just stay here forever. The spatial plan of the city doesn’t allow for a stadium that is not going to be commercially viable.”
Lucky Manna, chairperson of Arcadia Shepherds FC, insisted on Monday that his team was not about to change its home ground.
“We’re not going to move, we are going to stay put. They will have to carry us out from here. They have said we must be out by the 26th of this month. They said if we don’t move they will go to court to get an interdict. They can only get that interdict once we have (also) gone to court. The court will have to look at our documentation signed by the council, saying they will give us a contract,” said Manna.
“Tshwane has not done any maintenance on this facility for five years. Arcadia Shepherds does everything. We have one tap for the 350 children. This is the most used stadium in the country. There is no other stadium in this country used by over 32 associations per year. Loftus Stadium is not even as much as this stadium.”
He said the Tshwane metro was “trying to fool the public” by saying the football club doesn’t have a lease.
“I do have their lease on paper where they said they were going to give me the contract. They signed it in 2001. Every year they come with clever things, saying we should sign a new lease. I always refuse to sign,” said Manna.
He said Arcadia Shepards was formed in 1903.
“We have been on this facility for 115 years. We have never been off this facility in 115 years. The society which this club originates from sold this ground to the council in 1917. After 1917, we have had free reign on this club, in conjunction with the council.
“There is no way we just want it for ourselves. We have a better concept that the current council has. Our concept includes a community hall and teaching people life skills.”
Arcadia Shepards coach Jacket Makobe said morale was at an all-time low in his camp.
“This club and stadium has a very rich history in South Africa, not only in terms of football. A lot of people that played here learnt so much that some went on to be doctors and lawyers. Some became top business people in the country. They continue to make this country what it is now. When they say they are closing this stadium, what are they saying to South Africa? Are they saying history doesn’t matter?” Asked Makobe.
“The likes of Mark Fish, Bongani Khumalo, Itumeleng Khune came and played here. People like Pitso Mosimane who has just won the Premier Soccer League, cut his teeth here. The late Thomas Madigage (Bafana Bafana assistant coach) played and coached here. What are we going to tell our kids when we talk of South African football history? Are we going to be talking about the new Moses Mabhida (stadium) because it is beautiful?”
Some edgy parents milled around the turf on Monday as their children went through their paces under Makobe’s watchful eye.