EXPLORING DURBAN: GUGU DLAMINI PARK
By: Tony Manyangadze
It’s just a normal day that might appear unusual if you are new in town. Children running, adults sitting, students studying and if you are lucky, you can even come across traditional Zulu dance groups performing.
All this and more, takes place almost every single day right in the heart of Durban, unusual? Yes, but at the Gugu Dlamini Park most things are possible. The Gugu Dlamini Park is, for most Durbanites, the best place to embrace the warm sun while sitting on the green lawn and eating ice-cream after a bit of shopping.
“It used to be quiet but now the park is getting busier,” said Brenda Venkadu who has been working at Plant Inn, a shop facing the park that sells green plants, for the past four years. “People, mostly students from Unisa, come just to read or relax and eat ice-cream,” she added.
Indeed this is not an ordinary park. It holds a great sentimental value that, unfortunatley, is fast fading. Within the park, a gigantic red ribbon erected in July 2000 to honour and remember the saddening event that took place in KwaMashu, a location just out of Durban, where Gugu Dlamini was gruesomely attacked by a mob after she had publicly revealed that she was HIV positive.
“She came out that she was HIV positive and people killed her,” said Nompumelelo Diko, a 22-year-old woman who sales airtime and starter packs in the Gugu Dhlamini Park.
“At that time to be positive was not common, it was rare and she was brave to tell that she was HIV positive,” added Nompumelelo while neatly packing her merchandise in an old satchel.
Contrary to the violence that Dlamini encountered many years ago, the park has become a resemblance of peace and love. For the past ten-years, Bronwyn Naidoo has been working at Oriental Restaurant, just oppoiste this park. She has seen and experienced how important the park and what it means to many that come to relax in it.
“It makes people happy; it showcases a lot of talent, dancing, karate lessons and students reading. It’s a nice reprieve because it is in the centre of the city and people can get away from the city’s noise, the traffic and just relax,” said Bronwyn with enthusiasm.
The 29-year-old remembers the history of the park and why it was named after Gugu Dlamini. She greatly respects the brevity of Gugu. “She was an activist, basically she fought for human rights be it white, coloured, black, Indian you name them,” she said while cigarette smoke was coming out of her pierced nose.
The Gugu Dlamini Park has for the past years played a big role in the lives of many, though a few realise it. “Personally I love this place, it’s a good place and many may not realise it,” she emphasised about to make her way back into the restaurant as her smoke break was over.
The park has been maintained and upgraded to make it worth a visit. “There were no lights but last year lights were installed and flowers were planted to beautify the park,” said Eddie Naidoo who also works at Oriental Restaurant. “In the night this place just looks even more beautiful,” he added.
Naidoo is however not pleased with how a few individuals vandalise the park, despite the efforts being made to maintain it. “Some people don’t see the importance of this park, they step on the flowers and some even uproot them. Thanks to the police who are usually patrolling if not, the park will be a dangerous place with robbers,” said the 61-year-old.
Over12 years has gone by since Gugu Dlamini took her final breath but even up to this day and days to come, she will always be remembered for what she did. Books have been written, films have been produced and most importantly a landmark has been named after her so that she will forever be in people’s minds. Children play, adults relax and life goes on in the park that was named after her, hopefully this will help her rest in peace where ever she is.