‘Clean up holy mess’

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The patch of Prasa-owned land located opposite Yusufeyyah Masjid in Mosque Road, Wynberg East.
The patch of Prasa-owned land located opposite Yusufeyyah Masjid in Mosque Road, Wynberg East.

As the religious month of Ramadan begins, Yusufeyyah Masjid and the Wynberg East Civic Association (Weca) have asked for urgent feedback from the City of Cape Town and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) on their plans (including a timeline) to address the shocking conditions at a Prasa-owned plot next to this religious institution in Mosque Road.

Last week, Yunus Karriem, who is an exco member of both Weca and the mosque’s committee, sent a group email to relevant role players, asking them to communicate the way forward. Attached to the email was a photograph taken on Sunday 4 April just before evening prayers at the mosque.

“I took it at the best possible time of day to shed a positive light on the situation – no stabbings, no yelling, no drug smuggling, no abuse – all of which takes place during the normal course of every other day,” wrote Karriem in his email.

He described the situation as dire. “Next week, we will be embarking on our religious month of Ramadan and look at what we need to contend with. Over the years, our religious prayers were not even done in peace, due to the often foul outcries emanating from the taxi fraternity, with the exception of the few good ones (a taxi rank is located right next to the mosque).

“(Now) we have to inhale everyday odours of dagga, filth, and freshly squeezed number ones and number twos. Is religious ground no longer sacrosanct?” Karriem asked.

At the beginning of the year, Weca shared its concern with Prasa and the City over the unsanitary conditions prevalent at a patch of land located on a hill opposite the mosque where, at that point, about 100 structures had been erected. In February, Weca again called for urgent intervention by Prasa and the City (“Progress in urban renewal”, People’s Post, 16 February), claiming criminals had infiltrated the illegal settlement, threatening public safety, and that the piles of litter on the land were drawing rats.

A long-awaited clean-up of the site took place on Tuesday 22 February. Prasa collected and removed some of the bigger trash items from the site, but the majority of the rubbish was left on the field.

On Monday 1 March, Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch (WENW) members, with the help of the people living on the site, began to bag up the rubbish for the City’s department of solid waste to collect but Salwa Beukes, WENW’s chair, said it would be an ongoing process. In the photograph attached to Karriem’s email, a large pile of rubbish is still visible on the site.

Zahid Badroodien, the City’s Mayco member for community services and health, told People’s Post the City’s environmental health service has conducted numerous site visits and has liaised with the landowner, Prasa, on several occasions, requesting the area be cleaned to limit the potential health risks.

“The environmental health practitioners are continuing to liaise with Prasa via the route of cooperative governance. However, should there be continued non-compliance, the City will proceed to serve a formal written notice on Prasa to clear their property,” Badroodien said.

On Thursday 25 February, Mayor Dan Plato on patrol with WENW (as part of a series of neighbourhood watch support visits), attended the site. Engaging with the homeless living there, Plato promised that he would contact his office the very next morning to help find them accommodation at a shelter.

Mayoral media officer, Lyndon Khan, said their street people unit has regularly offered various social interventions to assist. “Alternative accommodation options continue to be explored,” said Khan.

In response to Karriem’s email, Sherry-lee Solomons, professional officer for the street people unit, said their Area South team had successfully placed two individuals at an inpatient rehabilitation centre for their drug addiction.

“The individuals are progressing well and are becoming change agents in their own lives,” Solomons wrote. She added that through regular intervention at this location, the unit have noted that five individuals have migrated from the area.

She said, at present, there were 55 individuals and 50 structures.

According to Solomons, the Area South street people has three permanent staff members and three Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) field workers who offer the following reintegration services to the individuals on a regular basis: relocation to a shelter or safe space; reunification with their family; inpatient and outpatients rehabilitation services; ID, Sassa and medical referrals and EPWP job opportunities.

“Regrettably, the above services have been declined. Factors hindering and contributing to the homeless not accepting our services include gang involvement, substance abuse, criminal activity, and the influx of parolees,” said Solomons, adding that the street people unit cannot “force” the homeless individuals to accept their services. 

Temporary national disaster management regulations have brought about restrictions on how all public and private landowners can respond to illegal occupations.

To remove structures deemed as “occupied” under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land (PIE) Act, an eviction order must be obtained.

But the temporary disaster regulations limit the ability of courts to grant eviction orders.

In an open letter by Plato dated Wednesday 10 March, he urged for disaster regulations to urgently change.

He said the City was receiving a significant increase in complaints related to people living on the street.

While the country waits to hear if the National State of Disaster will be extended after Thursday 15 April, Karriem said time was of the essence.

“With winter and the cold coming, there will be more people seeking illegal shelter, more open fires. However good everyone’s intentions may be, this situation is not sustainable.”

  • A team from the City of Cape Town's solid waste management department removed the large waste pile on Tuesday morning (13 April).
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