Wynberg residents fed up with squatters

Rubbish has been piling up since vagrants occupied the land in Wynberg.

Wynberg residents are at their wits’ end with homeless people camped near the Wynberg transport interchange who they say are in the way of pedestrians going through the subway to the station, invading properties and are guilty of burglaries and robberies.

In the latest burglary, four men broke into Nijam Corner Shop at the top of Bexhill Road on Friday April 14. Wynberg police spokesperson Captain Silvino Davids said police arrested one man.

Salwa Beukes, spokesperson and former chairperson of Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch, said the Wynberg community is frustrated as they have made several attempts to get answers from the City of Cape Town as well as the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which owns the land, including the properties along the station, next to the mosque, in Castletown Road and Vine Road where the invaders are occupying.

“Residents living in Sandhurst, Mitcham and Bexhill Road are harassed every day. Sleep is interrupted due to the number of people and the constant noise. People are robbed on their way to and from work. The railway is used as a getaway for criminals. Drugs and loitering is the order of the day everyday. Our roads are used as public toilets,” she said.

Makeshift shelters in one of the lanes where residents have to pass through to get to the subway towards Wynberg station.

Yunus Karriem, chairperson of the Wynberg East Civic Association, as well as secretary of the Yusufeyyah mosque, and ward committee member, said they have had joint engagement with the City and Prasa but the meetings have not borne fruit.

Mr Karriem said fingers have been pointed in both directions and neither the City nor Prasa, “is fully taking the blame for the situation that is being felt by our community”.

Mr Karriem said since the occupation of these vagrants, crime has, “considerably increased from the stealing of copper pipes and water metres in the middle of the night, especially during load-shedding, etc”.

“These incidents have an impact on the residents as well as the City who has to replace these items,” said Mr Karriem.

Wynberg’s vagrant issue escalated since Covid, he said.

“Vagrants assembled in Strandfontein and during Level 5, they were released and a lot of them found their way here and they were asked to be dropped here.”

In 2020, homeless people were rounded up and transported to the Strandfontein sports field, where the City had set up huge tents in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Karriem said: “A Public Transport Interchange proposal was presented to the civic and community last year and in the redesign the very problem areas where the homeless are next to the mosque and at the railway were allocated for parking. How is it possible to allocate parking and City say it is not City land but Prasa land?”

Ward 63 councillor Carmen Siebritz the plans for the redesign were presented to the community in November 2022 at Wittebome Civic Centre in the form of information sessions which were held over two days. “Residents were afforded the opportunity to view such plans and comment.”

Ms Siebritz said there have been engagements between the City and Prasa officials over the land concerned. “In our last engagement, Prasa committed to cleaning up their act, and it was decided that the City would act in an assisting role.

“In respect of the vagrants, Law Enforcement reiterated that they’re not able to move anyone that’s not occupying City owned open spaces. Prasa agreed that their Railway Police would do this and called on Law Enforcemen to assist. Engagements between the City and Prasa are ongoing,” said Ms Siebritz.

Zino Mihi, head of communications for Metrorail Western Cape, said: “We are aware of the challenges at the Wynberg station precinct. A plan is being put in place, including meeting regularly with relevant area stakeholders such as SAPS, councillors and Law Enforcement agencies. We will issue a release once we have a resolution to the problem.”

The community says crime has increased since vagrants have settled in Wynberg east.