Fear for children safety after collapsed fence leaves EL pool open

A 40m section of BCM's Joan Harrison pool complex has collapsed.
LONG-TERM NEGLECT: A 40m section of BCM's Joan Harrison pool complex has collapsed.
Image: Mike Loewe

A 40m stretch of perimeter fence around the ailing Joan Harrison pool complex has collapsed, prompting fears for the safety of children and others who now have free access to BCM's pay pool.

Dispatch reader Charl Wessels wrote to the paper asking: “Please send a reporter and photographer to the Joan Harrison pool to inspect the fence bordering the Hams (Hamilton) club. It has fallen over and public can simply walk into the complex at all hours. In light of drownings that have occurred recently, it may be prudent to protect the public from another drowning.”

His fears were shared by Lionel Poovan, president of Buffalo City Aquatics, the umbrella body which represents seven aquatic codes, most of which use, or have used, “the Joan”, as the once-magnificent complex is called by thousands of fans.

When the Dispatch called Poovan on Thursday he said: “I am here at the complex.” After a pause, he said: “I can see it is down, yes, it is lying over. Children's safety is at stake. We hear about these drownings.”

He said he would take it up with senior BCM officials, but the fallen fence would be added to a lengthy and disturbing list of work which needed to be done to prevent the complex from plunging into further disrepair.

Poovan said two huge developmental events, one of them national, were coming up soon and he was deeply worried about whether the complex would be fit to host the meeting.

The Dispatch checked the fence, which runs between the complex and Hamilton Club.

It is overgrown and unkempt, with a mound of earthworks that indicates an unfinished job. The remains of the weed-throttled fence stands less than a metre above the ground and getting from the mound over the fence does not look difficult.

BCM spokesperson Samnkelo Ngwenya said after three days: “We are aware of the issue. We have developed specifications towards appointing a company to repair the fence through an informal tender process (under R30,000). On top of our security in the premises, we have engaged the law enforcement unit to constantly patrol the area so that we can avoid trespassing etc.”

The Dispatch called the Hamilton Club on Thursday. Manager Chris Patrick took the call, and when told about the issue reacted: “I am not aware of it. I will go there right now and get it fixed.”

Minutes later he called from the fence saying that it was BCM's fence and that he would be calling the official responsible. “But we will be here on Monday to fix it temporarily. The pillars look like they have been pushed over, as if someone reversed a car from the BCM side.”

Diehard Joan Harrison activist and legendary coach Joe Hillstrom said the fence had been down for some time.

“People use it to gain free entry to the pool. In the evening it becomes a security problem.”

He said that in the past, repair jobs regularly went to relatives of an official at the complex.

“Fortunately, Hams have jacked up their security.”

Andy Reeves, chairman of Buffalo City schools water polo, said deteriorating conditions at the Joan Harrison complex had prompted them to use pools at other venues around the city for high school and senior games. Primary schools still used the complex. “There are things which still need to be sorted out.” 


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