Vagrants at the door

2017-07-25 06:00
Shelters belonging to vagrants who allegedly litter in Wetton Road, Kenilworth in front of Romano da Mata’s house.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

Shelters belonging to vagrants who allegedly litter in Wetton Road, Kenilworth in front of Romano da Mata’s house.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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Five years of battling vagrants and litter in Wetton Road, Kenilworth is becoming a nightmare for residents.

The residents say the situation is deteriorating and putting their lives at risk.

The road is full of all sorts of litter, they say. Vagrants have turned the bridge on the road into an informal settlement, with shelters made of plastic and cupboards secretly built underneath the bridge.

It is reported that they use the sides of the bridge, just out of sight of their shelters, to relieve themselves, resulting in a stink in Wetton Road.

Residents say the vagrants and drug users dump litter in the area all the time. That garbage then blows to the houses on the street.

The drug users are also reportedly exposing children living on the street to substance abuse and strong language.

Residents say patrols by Law Enforcement officers are not helping as vagrants leave their spot in the presence of the officers but then return shortly after the patrol.

Romano da Mata has lived on this road for 14 years and says the problem started five years ago.

Since then, residents have been trying to get help, but no permanent solution has been found, he says.

He says he has to look after the two teenagers in his house all the time because it is not safe to leave them by themselves as they could be exposed to all sorts of danger.

“I cannot even let them go outside on their own because these people prick themselves in front of the house, they shout and use strong language. They can just pull down their pants and relieve themselves and we do not want the children to see that.

“There have been robberies here, especially break-ins. If you leave children, who knows what is going to happen? I have to always be with them, take them with me if I go to the shops because it is not safe here.”

He says he has to clean up after the vagrants with the litter they bring to the area. Da Mata says his attempts to get help from the City of Cape Town to secure the place and have it cleaned on a regular basis have been unsuccessful. He says they want officials to take action.

A businessman on the road, Clinton Walters, says when the wind blows the litter blows to the shop and the houses and they have to clean it afterwards. 

He says he once tried to motivate the vagrants by paying them R20 to keep the place clean but it did not help.

He says they want government officials to remove the squatters and build a fence around the bridge.

Walters says the vagrants sometimes make fire and lose control of it and residents have to call the fire department. He says there is a power station underneath the bridge secured with a burglar gate, which he fears is at risk of being burnt and resulting in severe damage to the neighbouring ­houses.

When People’s Post visited the area one of the alleged vagrants, Mawande Ngwabe, agreed that there were many people staying there.

He said some brought stuff with the aim to sell them but then threw them away when they did not get buyers.

He said he was also not happy with the littering but there was nothing he could do. He would not comment on allegations of drugs being used there or other criminal elements.

Ngwabe said he had stayed under the bridge for four months since he lost his job earlier this year. He was originally from Port Elizabeth and said he had no-one in Cape Town to help him.

Eddie Andrews, Mayco member (South), says the City, through its social development and early childhood development department’s street people programme, is aware of the situation. He says the site has been visited regularly by both the reintegration unit and the Wynberg Law Enforcement office.

“There have been four joint after-hours operations at this location in the past two months during which social assistance was offered to individuals. It must, however, be noted that any social assistance offered is entirely voluntary and the City cannot force anyone to accept these offers.

“With regard to fencing, we have previously responded to the concerns raised by the affected neighbourhood by installing a palisade fence to secure the door to the substation.

“Concerns were raised again more recently and it was resolved to secure the grounds immediately next to the substation building by moving the existing fence in from the current boundary of the substation out by 0.5m,” Andrews says.

He says Law Enforcement officers removed structures erected at the site and regular patrols are conducted in the area. He says this, however, will not solve the problem fully as there will still be open land, owned by Prasa, that can be accessed.

He encourages residents to complain to Prasa about the remaining open land.

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