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City Parks has completed another extreme park, this time expanding the renamed Petrus Molefe Eco Park in Soweto.

Petrus Molefe Eco-Park, with the Klipspruit in the backgrondPetrus Molefe Eco-Park, with the Klipspruit in the backgrondTHE third phase of the freshly renamed Petrus Molefe Eco Park is not only a recreational space; it is also a memorial where the younger generation can learn about the price paid and sacrifices made for freedom.

The facility, which is 700m2 in size, combines phases one and two of the park formerly known as Dhlamini Eco Park, as well as phase three – an extreme park makeover that was started and finished last week.

Joburg City Parks has become something of an expert in extreme park makeovers, in which neglected, vacant land is turned into green recreational facilities in 24 hours or less. The programme falls under the Greening Joburg initiative, set up to reclaim and improve neglected spaces.

The Petrus Molefe Park extreme park was started on Thursday and completed on Friday, 9 December, when all three phases of the park were officially opened and renamed by the acting executive mayor, Mally Mokoena.

As it was named after a one of the unsung heroes of Soweto, known for his devotion to the struggle, the opening drew a wide audience. It included anti-apartheid activists and former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) veterans Ahmed Kathrada, Shirish Nandohai and Laloo Chiba.

The former mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo, was also there. They were joined by City officials and mayoral committee members, members of Umkhonto we Sizwe Veterans Association and of the community.

Together they chanted slogans and songs of the liberation struggle. The event coincided with the 50th anniversary of the founding of MK, which will be officially celebrated on 16 December.

Unveiling a plaqueUnveiling a plaqueSpeaking on the day, Mokoena described the opening of the park as a new dawn and the start of greater things to come for the township. It was important as it would be a reminder to the younger generation about the price paid for freedom.

"Amidst many of the events and celebrations, we should take a moment to pause and consider the extraordinary courage and sacrifice MK soldiers displayed … This is your park; take ownership. It belongs to you the people of Soweto. It is your responsibility to ensure that it remains clean," she added.

The completion of Petrus Molefe Eco Park was a testimony to local government commitment to reduce air pollution, createg green jobs and improve the quality of life of citizens. Mokoena spoke ahead of the conclusion of the COP 17 climate change talks in Durban.

Molefe was a member of MK, the ANC's military wing, and was the first soldier to be killed by the apartheid regime on 16 December 1961 in Dube, Soweto. This year marks 50 years since his death.

Soccer field
The park has a mini soccer field with a rubberised surface, benches and swings. Trees and lawn were planted on the morning of the opening.

Petrus Molefe's grave at Nancefield CemeteryPetrus Molefe's grave at Nancefield CemeteryAt the centre of the facility is an artwork with four pillars, each bearing a message. On the ground between the pillars is the MK emblem of a man with a spear and a shield. Standing at the art work, one can see the Freedom Charter Memorial at Walter Sisuslu Square of Dedication.

On one pillar, there is a plaque with the park's new name and a snippet of history of Molefe and his involvement with MK. It also has a City parks plague indicating the date of the opening.

On the second pillar, there are words from the Constitution: "We the people of South Africa believe in a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

On the third there is a line from the MK manifesto of 1961: "The time comes in the life of any nation when there remains only two choices: submit or fight."

A clause from the Freedom Charter is inscribed on the fourth pillar: "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white."

On the day, the City delegation and MK veterans also unveiled a tombstone at Nancefield Cemetery, where Molefe is buried.

The Molefe family at the opening of Petrus Molefe Eco-ParkThe Molefe family at the opening of Petrus Molefe Eco-ParkSpeaking at the cemetery, the Chief Whip of council, Prema Naidoo, said it was important that one of the unsung heroes of the struggle was honoured. "This is a lasting legacy that will live for many years to come," Naidoo said.

"We must teach our children about our history, so that they can become responsible citizens, knowing that democracy did not come cheap, people laid [down] their lives."

Mokoena and the member of the mayoral committee for community development, Chris Vondo, laid a wreath at the grave.

The Molefe family was at peace that their son, brother and friend finally received the honour and pride he deserved. Ellen Maloko, who at 83 is Molefe's younger sister, said the family had struggled for many years to raise funds for a tombstone.

"We are happy that Petrus's contribution to the struggle is finally rewarded," she said. "He was a humble man dedicated to his family and community."

From a family of seven, Molefe was the fourth born. David Molefe, 63, described his brother as a man who was determined and had given his life to the ANC.

"He was passionate about the organisation. We thank the City of Johannesburg for honouring our brother."

Molefe's nephew, Edward Kgosi Sole, said: "I did not get to know my uncle. But from what I have gathered, he was a good, loving and caring man."

A DVD showing the life and times of Molefe and his contribution to the struggle was played. In it, the Rivonia trialist, Andrew Mlangeni, described him as being modest and dedicated to the ANC. The executive mayor also spoke about the importance of preserving history.

There were also inserts of Nelson Mandela and other heroes of the struggle.