Calls to fix broken fence

This building has been vacant for years.

Recent crimes in Sybrand Park can be blamed on broken railway fencing, says the neighbourhood watch.

Sybrand Park Neighbourhood Watch (SPNW) has renewed calls to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to fix the fencing along the nearby Hazendal train station. The watch says criminals are using holes in the fence as a thoroughfare.

SPNW chairman Ebrahim Mohamed said they had made several attempts over the years to get Prasa to not only fix the fence at Hazendal station but to maintain its premises and secure the subway at night.

All attempts had been futile, as they were yet to have a meeting with Prasa officials, he said.

Mr Mohamed said there had been an increase in car break-ins in July, and watch members had found that criminals had used the broken fence to move through from Sybrand Park to Hazendal.

A watch member had been shot and wounded while on patrol in July, he said.

And in October the watch had been called out to help a girl being attacked along the railway line.

“When we got to the scene, there were two men attacking a girl. We later found that she was being raped. Police had apprehended the men but the mother decided not to press charges,” he said.

In November, they had been called to the tracks where a woman had been lying on the line — trying to take her own life. The had managed to get her to safety.

Other issues included children walking along/on the railway track, overgrown bushes not being maintained and the subway which remained open at night, he said.

“We have tried to follow the proper channels and had engaged with Prasa, civic associations, the community police forum, the police, but there had been no progress. These issues need to be prioritised and addressed, or we could be facing a serious problem,” said Mr Mohamed.

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said: “We have previously indicated that railway fencing primarily demarcates boundaries and most fencing (even palisade) would not deter wilful entry.

“In principle, Prasa replaces/mends fencing on an ongoing basis as funds permit and budgets are committed.

“The continued influx of economically depressed groups led to an increase in vagrancy. Prasa (Metrorail) has also recorded increased invasions onto vacant properties and rail reserves. The resources to deal with this phenomenon remain constrained in the face of urgent priorities,” she said.

Mr Mohamed said Prasa had built an office at the station several years ago but had never used it.

He said the office was regularly stripped but Prasa kept replacing the items.

The maintenance of the subway and its accessibility at night were also concerns for the watch.

“This building has been standing empty for years but Prasa keeps on spending money on it. Why not take that money and repair the fence?” he said.

Ms Scott said vacant Prasa property had been documented and efforts were made to either lease or develop these, depending on each property’s zoning and land use.

“Facilities are fenced off to the public, only to be broken into and vandalised repeatedly.”

Ward 60 councillor Mark Kleinschmidt said he had met with Sybrand Park Neighbourhood Watch and relayed their concerns to Metrorail’s special projects manager, George Kiewits.

“Metrorail has indicated intent to repair the fence. They have already repaired and placed the fence at Lansdowne and Athlone stations. I have an excellent relationship with Mr Kiewits, who is always willing to assist and tackle issues of safety and beautification projects,” he said.

Mr Mohamed said this was an issue that had to be prioritised.

“Prasa does not seem to understand the ripple effect that this has had on the community and needs to come to the table. We have been trying for nine years to get this fence repaired,” he said.