‘It was never this dirty’

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Rubbish is seen in abundance on a vacant property along Eric Way and George Road. Behind the tall grass, littered with plastics and other dirt, squatters have set up home. They are alleged to be involved with anti-social activities. PHOTO: RACINE EDWARDES
Rubbish is seen in abundance on a vacant property along Eric Way and George Road. Behind the tall grass, littered with plastics and other dirt, squatters have set up home. They are alleged to be involved with anti-social activities. PHOTO: RACINE EDWARDES

Vacant land running along Eric Way and George Road in Ottery is a rising cause for concern among residents confronted by piles of rubbish and a growing number of informal structures on their doorsteps.

A local resident says she has been living there since the 1980s. Back then, she says, the area was “fantastic” and “clean”.

“To look like this now – it was never this dirty, you see trolleys all over the show, there are (vagrants) all over the show. Now imagine when we send our kids out alone to the shop, we don’t know what’s going to happen to them,” she says.

The resident spoke to People’s Post on the condition of anonymity because, she claims, the residents who have built their structures on the land across from her home are unrestrained, unpredictable and have shown aggression on occasion.

William Akim, councillor for ward 66, believes perpetrators are all young people whose parents have kicked them out of their council homes for their inability to follow rules.

“That is provincial ground, and they have been there now for almost two to three years. The problem we have is that these residents are young people occupying the structures. They go around with loud music, partying and show anti-social behaviour. That’s an ongoing problem but we are still waiting on departments and different agencies to respond,” he says, adding a notification regarding the matter has been sent to law enforcement, “and that is a process”.

He adds, due to Covid-19 and the National Disaster Management Act prohibiting evictions, it is very difficult to carry out land invasion operations.

The resident says before the informal dwellers arrived, they had set up their informal structures at a number of locations around the neighbourhood, which were later demolished by law enforcement.

The resident suggests the use of the old Lotus River High School on Marius Road to house the homeless, but Akim says this is not a possibility.

“There have been talks about demolishing the school because it is being vandalised and it is unsafe. I am aware of a property in Ottery where we are going to build 120 to 140 council houses and those will be handed over to people on the City’s housing database,” he says, adding the onus lies on each resident interested to update their details at any City housing office in Cape Town.

The secondary issue on the vacant land is the huge amount of rubbish being strewn across the property which is getting caught in the trees and grass.

“The responsibility comes down to us, the local residents, to keep it clean. The problem is because of illegal dumping, which is a big problem in the city. It’s the people (living) in the immediate area who are the culprits. We need people who see them to report them. Go to the police and get an affidavit so we can do something. The public open spaces in our ward that’s being used for dumping are being cleaned by the City weekly but the problem is the dumping,” Akim explains.

“The responsibility lies with us,” he emphasises.

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