Clean-up goes off the rails

2019-10-08 06:00
Community members and volunteers at the Kenilworth station clean-up. The campaign was called to a halt 15 minutes after it began on Saturday 28 September.

Community members and volunteers at the Kenilworth station clean-up. The campaign was called to a halt 15 minutes after it began on Saturday 28 September.

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A Kenilworth railway community cleaning campaign was cancelled just 15 minutes after it began on Saturday 28 September.

A team of about 10 community members, who were joined by Ian Iversen, councillor for Ward 59, and Sharon Cottle, councillor for ward 58, were told to stop their clean-up activities after George Kiewiets, Metrorail special project manager for the Western Cape region, received a call, saying that permission for the clean-up had been withdrawn.

The operation was called off after safety complaints were received from Kenilworth Residents’ Association (KRA) committee member Rory Moore.

Moore was present at Kenilworth station, the designated meeting place for community members wanting to assist, on Saturday.

According to sources, who asked not to be named, Moore said Prasa was putting residents in harm’s way by getting them to do its work.

He said the area designated for clean-up (starting at Kenilworth station down to Wetton bridge), was littered with syringes and human excrement.

He allegedly said the team who had volunteered to help weren’t qualified to safely handle such items.

He allegedly told one of the volunteers, Gail Brown, who has been actively involved in railway clean-ups for the past eight years, that she did not belong there.

People’s Post contacted Moore, but he declined to comment.

In an open letter to Prasa, Brown said the closing down of the community railway clean-up was a sad day and reminiscent of the apartheid era.

“The fact that it was brought about by a small, anachronistic part of the community, through which the train runs and who stand to benefit most, is baffling,” said Brown.

In answer to the issue of safety and not being qualified to clean up, she asked what qualifications were needed to pick up litter.

“The bulk of the litter is paper, plastic and glass. We carry buckets for the glass so it can be recycled,” she said.

As far as syringes and excrement were concerned, Brown said that she had rarely seen a needle in her many years of railway clean-ups.

“It is easy enough to tell everyone to let them lie and we normally ignore human poop or spade it into a hole and put sand over it.”

Henk Egberink, a community activist who helped organise the clean-up, says planning started in June after he was approached by community members from Rosmead.

“Residents were complaining of vagrants who were sleeping next to the railway line. We also received quite a few complaints about the state of Wetton bridge close to the taxi rank.”

He said, following procedure, he contacted Kiewiets to get the ball rolling. On Thursday 1 August, Kiewiets, with his security team, met with Egberink to do a safety and security assessment of the area.

“We found one vagrant and there weren’t any signs of syringes or human excrement. It was decided to go ahead,” Egberink said.

“This was supposed to be a community-building exercise. There are two communities involved, one on each side of the railway line. Neither side controls the area. How can one community tell the other that they are not allowed to arrange a clean-up? Nobody should have that right,” Egberink said.

Preparations included the trimming of trees and collection of most of the litter. He said he also completed a safety check before the start of the clean-up. I

n addition, Prasa provided 200 black bags and 100 pairs of gloves. Two security officers from its mobile team were also present.

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