Unwelcome hub at vlei footbridge

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Children use a bridge on Dabchick Road as a diving board.
Children use a bridge on Dabchick Road as a diving board.

The footbridge connecting two parts of Dabchick Road in Zeekoevlei is an ongoing cause for concern, say residents.

The bridge runs over a section of the canal leading to the Zeekoevlei water body further downstream. Local residents accustomed to the usually quiet environment claim they are troubled by some of the many anti-social activities – drug use, loud cursing and squatting that take place in the vicinity of the bridge are.

Osman Ajouhaar, a resident who has lived near the bridge for 20 years, says sometimes the activity continues non-stop.

“There are lots of illegal activities. Theft, vagrants camp out there underneath the bridge and there are robberies – also on the field further ahead as well as on the footbridge. Vagrants have been the main problem, but there’s also the fishing that happens day and night – and fishing isn’t permitted on this part of the vlei. At the beach there are people to monitor the fishing, but nothing here.”

It facilitates robberies, providing a route for thieves to make a quick getaway, he claims. “I’ve had a few burglaries and so have all my neighbours.”

According to Jesse Jacobs, a resident who runs past the area regularly, another problem is the careless flouting of lockdown regulations. “Sometimes when I run on Fisherman’s Walk, I can see 10 or more children playing further up in the vlei. They are sometimes naked. I’ve never seen parents and there’s definitely no use of a face mask,” she says.

Ajouhaar adds that the lack of supervision makes it very unsafe. “I have videos of the children using the bridge as a diving board. They aren’t the neighbours’ or children from around here because we would know them. They come from far away; it’s nobody from the immediate area.”

The bridge itself is in a state of disrepair as vagrants and passers-by have helped themselves to the metal rails, presumably to sell for quick cash.

While he understands the bridge provides a thoroughfare from one part of Dabchick Road to the next, Ajouhaar says there are no vital amenities such as schools or shops on either side. It is for that reason that he, and the community who is in agreement, will be looking at options to either close or remove the bridge as it does “more harm than good”.

Wayne Dyason, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement, says although the department can assist in ensuring the public adhere to the regulations, the enforcement of lockdown regulations is up to local police as the primary enforcement agency.

The City’s Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, echoed the sentiment.

She advises the public that: “The Zeekoevlei water body is presently closed to all activities under the alert level three Covid-19 regulations. Thus, no sailing, canoeing, fishing or swimming is allowed. Neither is braaing nor picnicking.”

She adds: “Children should always be accompanied by adults and all Covid-19 protocols must be adhered to. If residents see anyone breaking the lockdown regulations, they should report them to the police or local law enforcement.”

But due to the fact that the Zeekoevlei is largely an open-access nature reserve with large unfenced portions allowing access, precious little can be done to develop a controlled access walkway around it, she says.

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