Frustration vent at social ills

2018-06-26 06:00
Woodstock community members discussing concerns regarding a property that is giving the locals sleepless nights. PHOTO: luvuyo mjekula

Woodstock community members discussing concerns regarding a property that is giving the locals sleepless nights. PHOTO: luvuyo mjekula

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Drugs and prostitution are just some of the problems Woodstock residents face on a daily basis because of a property, allegedly left unattended by its owners – the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

The local community gathered last week and discussed plans to get the agency’s attention. On the agenda was also “a way forward to address the antisocial behaviour at the Prasa and railway environment situated in Railway and Strand streets”.

Led by Woodstock Police Station commander, Colonel Dumezweni Ntsezo, ward councillor Dave Bryant, City of Cape Town Law Enforcement’s senior inspector, Clinton Overmeyer, and community members, including businesspeople and residents’ associations, expressed their frustration.

“We need a political intervention to ensure that things are happening, because (the neglected property) is affecting the community, it’s affecting business, the youth,” Ntsezo said at the meeting in the local town hall on Tuesday 19 June.

It has emerged that a number of people have illegally occupied the site and started an informal settlement, prompting business owners and adjacent residents to lodge complaints with the police due to an upsurge in crime activity. A community member at the meeting said up to six structures had been built on the site.

Police spokesperson, Sergeant Hilton Malila, says they have received emails from concerned residents and businesses. Prostitution, drug trafficking and people getting mugged on the footbridge closer to the informal settlement, especially over weekends, are reported frequently and stolen property is being hidden there, says Malila.

A police and Law Enforcement operation in the area on Friday last week resulted in the arrest of 50 suspects for various offences. However, Ntsezo believes criminal elements are outside the informal settlement. He assured the meeting that the police would continue their crime prevention operations while a response from Prasa is awaited.

The feeling at the meeting was that Prasa has failed to address the problem. “Operationally we will continue but it is actually assisting an absent owner. That is what is frustrating. We are representing the interests of an absent owner,” said Ntsezo.

Bryant shared the same sentiments. “I would agree with the allegations that certain people within Prasa have not been availing themselves to answer questions. Even at the meeting that was held, Prasa had committed to come along, we waited a further 20 minutes for them to arrive, and they didn’t arrive so we started our meeting 20 minutes late and without them. We really think that they need to be playing a more significant role, a more important role, in taking responsibility for their asset,” said Bryant.

He undertook to attempt to arrange a meeting with a senior Prasa official.

“We are still in the process of trying to get that set up,” he said.

The councillor also assisted in connecting the police with the local fieldworker from the City of Cape Town who will be accompanying the police on their future operations to assist vulnerable people on the site.

The problem has been ongoing for many years and Bryant, though acknowledging the attempts of the police to resolve the issues on the site, feels it is up to Prasa to take responsibility.

Although a Prasa representative eventually joined the meeting, he could not provide solutions. Marius Wagner from the agency’s real estate department said he had attended the meeting to gather all concerns and would forward them to management. He was accompanied by Metrorail Protection Services’ Yolandi Lombard.

Prasa had not responded to People’s Post’s questions by the time of going to print.

According to Bryant, there is a possibility the building can be declared a problem building, if the problem persists and if Prasa takes no further action.


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