Dirt, shacks, intimidation and loud noise are what many residents of District Six face on a daily basis whenever they needed to walk on the pavements of the Chapel Street circle under the Nelson Mandela Boulevard bridge.
A joint clean-up project was conducted on September 8 by the Cape Town police, law enforcement, traffic and Metro police, the department of social development, the department of sanitation, the Metro K-9 Unit, Upper District Six Neighbourhood Watch and the ward councillor’s office.
This was done to clean the area, remove all the shacks that were built illegally and to provide some assistance to the people who were living in them.
The camp had become a hot spot for crime and many residents felt unsafe when they needed to walk past it ( “A bridge too far,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, May, 24)
Ward 77 councillor Brandon Golding said they had been receiving complaints from residents over the past year.
He said the structures completely blocked the pavement and there was criminal activity like drugs and prostitution which became a threat to residents.
JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, said 14 makeshift structures and building materials had been removed, while the 22 people who were staying there were detained for profiling at Cape Town Central police station. Forty bags of their personal belongings were tagged and sent to the Ndabeni storage area for safekeeping.
Even though the mini camp was located between two shelters, The Haven and Homestead, many of the people were reluctant to go there.
Mr Golding said many of them were transgender and transvestites and did not feel comfortable going to the shelters as many of the shelters had men’s and women’s dorms and they felt out of place there.
Mr Golding said the new Safe Space shelter that opened in July underneath the Culemborg Bridge on the Foreshore, had capacity for 230 people and there was a designated area for transgender people and transvestites.
He said the City’s street people reintegration unit and law enforcement spoke to each person who lived there a week in advance to inform them that their structures would be dismantled.
It has been two weeks since the area has been cleaned and the City would like to keep it that way.
Mr Golding said there were CCTV cameras under the bridge that would monitor activity there.
The community with help from the Upper District Neighbourhood Watch will be in radio contact with law enforcement, Metro police and SAPS to ensure that nobody will attempt to move back there.
Captain Ezra October, spokesman for Cape Town Central police station said the community had responded positively to the clean-up.
“This area has been cleaned up and the community, especially senior citizens and the schoolchildren, can have peace of mind to walk to the nearby shop without being hassled by the persons who were sleeping on the pavement,” he said.
Wasiem West , the vice-chairperson of the Upper District Six Neighbourhood Watch, said they conducted numerous searches with law enforcement, the anit-land invasion unit and police during which they had found items like drugs, money and electronic equipment and it was of great concern for residents if they needed to get from one side of the bridge to the other.
Mr Smith said the City of Cape Town would do everything possible help get the homeless off the streets and integrated into society.