Breathing a sigh of relief

Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch members Salwa Beukes, Nadia Hassen and Shamil Hendricks stand on Broad Close. Until recently, the pavement was covered in with temporary shelters. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen
Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch members Salwa Beukes, Nadia Hassen and Shamil Hendricks stand on Broad Close. Until recently, the pavement was covered in with temporary shelters. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

Business and homeowners of properties located adjacent to Broad Close in Wynberg East are nervously optimistic that the slew of vagrants who had been living there will not return... this time.

Two weeks following a joint-operation to clean-up the pavement where about a hundred or so homeless people had set up camp, the area still remains clear.

The massive operation which took place at 08:00 on Tuesday 29 December last year included the police, the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement, the City’s department of social development, the City’s department of water and sanitation and the Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch (WENW).

While the National Disaster Management Act remains in place, law enforcement cannot confiscate any personal items.

Tents, bedding, as well as clothes are deemed personal items and cannot be confiscated.

In a previous interview with People’s Post Wayne Dyason, spokesperson for City law enforcement operations, explained that such operations took place on a regular basis. He said it entailed the cleaning up of dirt and rubbish that the homeless leave behind, and also the offer of assistance to the homeless.

“They normally refuse. In the event of someone who wants assistance, law enforcement will make contact with (the department of) social development who will then place this person in alternative accommodation,” he said.

Usually, once such a clean-up is complete, the homeless just settle back in. But this did not happen this time.

Salwa Beukes, chair of WENW, says it is largely thanks to the diligent efforts of their members and the support of the surrounding community that the area remains devoid of vagrants.

Directly following the clean-up, WENW members began to regularly patrol the area throughout the day and night, starting at 07:00.

In addition, local members and residents spent another four days cleaning the area following the operation – removing broken glass and washing the pavement with detergents “to get rid of the stench of urine”.

WENW members, with the help of local residents, also painted the boundary wall, which separates the pavement from a group of semi-detached cottages located on Pendle Crescent.

The white paint was donated by residents and the local store. The plan is to cover the wall with an inspiring mural with the help of local graphic designer and mural artist Mohamed Hassan.

Beukes says the theme will be in line with Covid-19 and will incorporate an uplifting message.

“We want to show the community that with their help and support we can take back Wynberg East,” says Beukes.

Fiona Clayton, a resident of one of the semi-detached cottages located in Pendle Crescent and a WENW member, was one of the volunteers who spent her first few days of 2021 painting the boundary wall. She says she had heard that a joint operation had been planned for Tuesday 29 December, but having been disappointed so many times in the past, she didn’t hold her breath.

Clayton explains that when she and her family moved to Pendle Crescent in 2016, there were a handful of homeless people living on the taxi holding area opposite their properties. The number of people living there suddenly increased following the closure of the controversial Strandfontein temporary shelter in May last year. 

Little did she know that what was already an untenable situation was about to get even worse after a clean-up operation was held by the City on Friday 18 December last year. That is when the large group of homeless who had been living on the holding area and an adjacent field moved their tents across the road to the stretch of pavement in Broad Close – camped straight up against the wall to these semi-detached cottages. 

“It was a nightmare. We had to watch people doing drugs right there in the street. Prostitution. A constant chopping that would start at 22:00 and continue throughout the night,” Clayton says.

Lorna Rensburg, who also lives in one of the semi-detached cottages, says they had to bore the brunt of the going-ons. 

“One of the property owners here even sold their property out of desperation. It is not that we are anti-homeless. My heart goes out to them, but we also have our rights. We had people throwing their stuff over the wall into our yards on a daily basis – dirty sanitary towels, pooh nappies and used needles,” Rensburg shares.

A local business owner, who agreed to speak to People’s Post under the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, says the small group of homeless people who were living at the taxi holding area before lockdown were harmless. 

He says, however, after the new group of people moved in May last year, crime in the area skyrocketed. “That is when the drug dealing started. Further down the road we also had cars broken into. I have been here for over 30 years, and we never had a break-in attempt at our business until three months ago. A month ago there was a shooting just around the corner followed by a stabbing of one of the taxi guards in the holding area,” he says.

According to Nadia Hassen, a WENW member, the homeless who were living in Broad Close have relocated to a vacant plot next to Yusufeyyah Masjid in Mosque Road. Their numbers have now been added to those who were already illegally living on the plot which belongs to Prasa. 

Hassen says, although not ideal, at least it means that the homeless in Wynberg East are now more or less congregated at one spot which makes it easier to patrol. 

“We are already in the process of logging complaints on the City’s online C3 Portal – citing all of the bylaws being broken at this property – in an attempt to spur on the City to action,” Hassen concludes.

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