World’s first bulletproof park to keep Mitchells Plain kids safe

An artist’s impression of the proposed bulletproof park for Mitchells Plain. Picture: Supplied

An artist’s impression of the proposed bulletproof park for Mitchells Plain. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 6, 2024


Cape Town - A proposal by Gun Free SA to build the world’s first bulletproof park in Mitchells Plain has been welcomed by crime-fighters despite some concerns surrounding gang activities.

In a statement released earlier this week the NGO said they had forwarded a proposal to develop the park in Mitchells Plain to provide a safe and secure play area for children amid the ongoing threat of gunfire.

“The Bulletproof Park project comes as a response to the alarming statistics of firearm-related deaths in South Africa. In 2022-23 alone, over 11 300 people were killed with a firearm in a 12-month period, with almost 10% of those deaths being gangrelated, and many victims being young children shot by stray bullets,” the organisation says.

Crafted by specialists, the envisioned park will be entirely enveloped in bulletproof glass, delivering the delights of a typical playground with slides and monkey bars while ensuring the safety of children from stray bullets.

The park integrates cutting-edge security features such as secure entrances and panic buttons, providing parents and guardians with added assurance that comprehensive measures have been implemented to safeguard the play space from the nation’s firearm crisis.

Gun Free SA has even researched the development of bulletproof vests tailored for young children.

Cape Flats Safety Forum chairperson Abie Isaacs says they are set to be briefed soon on the proposal when various issues such as locations will be discussed.

He said as the community was plagued by gang violence, many parents feared their children would be struck by a gang bullet.

“We welcome the proposal as we believe parks should be a safe space for children. We have seen the rapid dilapidation of our parks as they have now become the homes for gangs to carry out their activities. Right now the parks are at the centre of shootings, drug dealings and other nefarious acts.

“We are going into a briefing soon to understand a bit more about how this will work. As things stand, an area has not been identified, but there are major concerns for the community of Beacon Valley which is gripped in fights between various major gangs.

“Some of the issues we will look at are the nuts and bolts of this park. How will it work? Who will fund it? How will we ensure gangsters don’t have access?” Isaacs asked.

“But these are all questions we will get answers to at a later stage. It is important for the public to know that this is a developing concept. As time goes on we will have more clarity, but we support this initiative.”

Norman Jantjes, of the Mitchells Plain CPF said: “We welcome any initiative aimed at making the area safer.

“As things stand we can’t say much on the topic as we have not been briefed. We have reached out to Gun Free SA for more information.“

Gun Free SA director, Adele Kirsten, said Beacon Valley had been earmarked as the location for the park.

“This is an area that has reported numerous deaths of children caught in crossfire, often simply for playing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Research shows children are disproportionately affected by stray bullets fired into the air or at missed targets.

“Over a 20-year period, nearly half of the children under 12 admitted to Cape Town’s Children’s hospital were victims of crossfire. Bulletproof Park is an outrageous solution to an outrageous problem.”

Kirsten said the design of the park was complete and was in the costing phase.

Two artist’s impressions of the proposed bulletproof park for Mitchell’s Plain.

“The cost to build the park would come from communities and fundraising, but unfortunately these communities already pay a high toll from gun violence.”

She explained that the park would be big enough for 24 children to play safely inside. However, the safety of the children outside the park currently can’t be guaranteed.

“We’ve grappled with the limited nature of the protection the park offers, as it doesn’t protect children walking to and from school, going to the shops, or outside their own homes. Bulletproof Park makes it safer for those inside it.

“In fact, we are in the production phase of developing a prototype of a bulletproof vest designed specifically for children.“

Kirsten sad the maintenance of the park would require a collective effort from communities, volunteers and sponsors.

The proposal also makes allowances for local governments to be actively involved in maintaining the park.

Asked how gangsters would be prevented from entering the park, Kirsten said the proposal included security features like facial recognition, security cameras, and panic buttons to alert local police.

“This is an incredibly complex system of security measures in an attempt to protect children from bullets. In the interim, local government and policing can help by keeping illegal guns off our streets and by charging cases of illegal possession of firearms.

“It’s crucial to remove illegal guns from circulation and destroy them to prevent shootings in the first place. The problem is going to require long-term thinking to action real change.

“The Bulletproof Park is an audacious proposal to protect children from stray bullets, but it can’t do anything about the current gun problems we’re experiencing in the country. The simpler, more viable solution of course, is to have stricter gun laws and a more robust system to retrieve stolen or misplaced guns.”

An artist’s impression of the proposed bulletproof park for Mitchells Plain. Picture: Supplied

[email protected]