The City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement removed 19 illegal shacks from a field opposite Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s District Six campus in Keizersgracht Street last Thursday morning, May 16.
The City said 22 people had been living in the shacks, which were made out of plastic, wood and string as well as rocks to anchor the roof.
Law Enforcement used a bakkie and trailer to remove the materials while the people could hold on to their personal belongings.
Hundreds of CPUT students walk past the field daily, with transport stopping nearby.
CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley says the university welcomes any Law Enforcement or police operation that can make the surrounding area safer and cleaner for their students and neighbours.
The City’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman says they gave numerous warnings to the inhabitants to vacate the area last year but these were ignored.
Mr Bosman says that Law Enforcement mostly receives complaints about vagrants. “The City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department interacts with street people on a daily basis, offering assistance and access to social and medical services,” he said.
Mr Bosman says these offers are entirely voluntary, as no person can be forced to accept help and so far the group of people who were removed had not accepted such offers of assistance.
The Tatler was on the scene while Law Enforcement was removing structures and tried to talk to the people affected but they refused to tell their stories and only told us to leave the site immediately.
Captain Ezra October, spokesperson for Cape Town Central police station, says they are concerned with muggers that had infiltrated the area and the neighbourhood watch structures have also complained about criminal activities.
He said the police’s Crime Prevention Unit members do regular raids for drugs and dangerous weapons.
Chairperson of the District Six Neighbourhood Watch, Ursula Windsor says that her patrollers face a similar situation with homeless people living in shacks in the open field near Russell Street next to Keizersgracht Street. “Law enforcement are enforcing the law by removing the structures, though when they remove it, the structures return the next day,” she said.
Chairperson of the District Six Civic Association, Asa Salie says that it is hard to differentiate between who actually stays in the shacks. Ms Salie says it can either be homeless people or criminals staying there as the criminals use those locations to hide from the police. “We empathise with the people that are homeless, though we ask whether they are homeless by choice or economic circumstances as there are many homeless shelters located nearby that can assist them,” she said.