Site not on the curriculum

2015-04-30 14:46
Community members feel a squatter site next to Trafalgar High School is endangering pupils.

nicole mccain

Community members feel a squatter site next to Trafalgar High School is endangering pupils. PHOTO: nicole mccain

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A vacant plot has been flagged as a danger to Trafalgar High School pupils.

The site, which houses over 30 street people, has been linked to drug-dealing and dumping.

School principal Nadeem Hendricks says there have been street people living on the site – which is apparently owned by the provincial public works department – for years, but the addition of new dwellers has seen refuse piling up on the site.

School pupils have also been caught buying drugs on the site, he says.

Nicola Jowell, Cape Town Community Police Forum chairperson, says the organisation receives “numerous and continuous” complaints about the informal settlement.

The plot is the source of much rubbish and grime in the area, Jowell says.

“This squatter camp backs directly onto a school – with children having their snack and lunch breaks next to an area that should be considered derelict and perhaps has numerous health hazards,” she says.

Police intervention has led to the discovery of stolen property and arrests of wanted suspects, Jowell says.

“There are also allegations that drugs are used as well as sold from this space,” she says.

In addition, petty crime in the lower area of the Devils Peak neighbourhood could be a result of its proximity to the squatter camp, Jowell says.

“However we need to be extremely mindful of the fact that poverty does not equate criminality,” she cautions.

Edward Oosthuizen, who has been living on the property for two years, says the dwellers have chosen to live on the site because they do not disturb anyone there.

However, he says the dwellers are not criminals.

“Some of us come from a criminal background, but we’re no longer involved in crime,” he says.

“There are pupils from the school that come here to smoke drugs, but we don’t sell it to them. We feel it is not our place to chase them away.”

Oosthuizen says the dwellers also attempt to minimise the refuse on the site by creating a small landfill in a corner of the property where they bury refuse.

Both Jowell and Hendricks are looking to the public works department to clean up the site.

“All efforts to make a positive change are really hampered entirely by the fact that we believe that this land is owned by the department. It has hampered all the efforts by so many to prevent the establishments of squatter camps and to rather assist those living there to have more sustainable options,” she insists.

The department had not responded to People’s Post at the time of going to print.

Jowell would “love to see this land put to positive use”.

“There exists such an opportunity for the land to be given to the school to manage to increase the outdoor recreation area, develop a school garden or grow vegetables,” she says.

However, Hendricks says he has been told by the department that it will manage the land, leaving little he can do to clean the site besides liaising with those living on it.

“I’ve spoken to every agent I can about the property. I really don’t have a problem with the homeless people living there, but the plot is filthy and we believe drugs are being sold there,” he says.

“This is a school, and I must protect my pupils.”

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