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Weekends in Johannesburg's township parks are the perfect time to wind down, relax with friends and family, and even practise music. Maitse Moloi shares the Green Soweto experience.

sowetogreen1IT is a Sunday at Mofolo Park in Dube, Soweto; a group of boys is cycling in circles on a dusty ground, perhaps meant to be a soccer field. They go on chattering and cheering each other as they perform different stunts while attempting new ones. The excitement in their voices cannot be ignored. About 20m away is a group of adult friends enjoying their wine over a seemingly cheerful conversation.

I walk over to enquire as to what it means for them to be there at Mofolo Park. Unanimously they agree in saying that they come to the park to relax, unwind and catch up in the comfort of a cool and quiet environment away from the hassles of the inner township. Further down, a number of couples are sitting on benches under trees in the more secluded parts of the park, cuddling.

Kwanele Mtshongo notes the park is sometimes used as a rendezvous for couples meeting illicitly – for "ugutjontja" which means stolen fruit.

In one of the buildings, known as Mofolo Bowling, I found a number of people playing sweet musical symphonies. One of them is Mr Lehlohonolo Motsoeneng, who has been using these premises to practise playing his saxophone since 2006. He indicates that he comes here due to the tranquil nature of the place.

sowetogreen1On the other hand, Thokoza Park is abuzz with a large number of magnificently vibrant youths who come from all over Soweto and beyond; one could swear that there's a huge event taking place. There's a convoy of vehicles that stretches along the length of the park up to the main road such that they even call it "Long Street" after the famous Long Street in Cape Town. Tshepo and his two friends have decided to open a convenience kiosk, which according to Tshepo, is doing better than his projections.

Tshepo says that people come here to celebrate weddings, birthdays and just weekend chilling after a long week, most especially the two last weekends of the month. Tshepo says these people come here to socialise, and some even explore sports like skate boarding, and music and dance interests.

Later on I caught up with Dlamini community leader, Mr Lucas Mokabe, at the Petrus Molefe Eco Park on his routine workout. Mr Mokabe is suffering from diabetes, and he says that this park has made a huge improvement to his health and life as a whole. He says he started coming here after his doctor recommended he worked out at least three times a week to better his health. "Ever since I started exercising free of charge in this Petrus Molefe Eco Park, my doctor confirmed a significant improvement on my health," says Mr Mokabe.

sowetogreen1His wish is to see such green recreational facilities being rolled out across the country, to curb the increase of different illnesses and obesity so as to improve the overall health of South Africans. This speaks to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's call for South Africans to adopt a healthy diet and regular exercising.  There are accessible rest rooms and 24/7 visible security.

It is clear that Man depends on nature for survival, but in order to have nature take care of us, it is key that we do the same as this is a two-way process. Proper maintenance and care should be given to all of parks to ensure sustainability; and this responsibility lies in each and every one of us to make our society a greener and healthier place.