A commitment was made by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), to clean a troublesome piece of land situated behind Mowbray station after residents had numerous concerns about this area.
Mowbray residents were concerned about the increasing number of crime in the area which they witnessed through their neighbourhood watch groups. They indicated that this rise of crime goes hand in hand with drug usage in the area.
The area behind the Mowbray railway station and behind houses in Strubens Road has been an ongoing problem for years due to it being an open piece of land, often being occupied by vagrants.
Zinobulal Mihi , Prasa acting marketing and communication manager, said: “Prasa Cres, a division of Prasa, visited the Mowbray site in question and have made a commitment to clean the area from now on and cut the grass regularly.”
Ms Mihi said Prasa’s service delivery became more of a priority to them since the pandemic began. As a result, their resources had to be redirected to the service issues which meant their human resources were at a low capacity for a while.
“Regarding security of these areas, Prasa’s integrated and layered security strategy was launched last year. It comprises physical guards, boundary fences, technology solutions (CCTV cameras) and law enforcement agencies. Our regional network is extensive (489km), however, it remains a challenge to securitise everywhere at all times,” she said.
Mowbray Community Police Forum chairperson, Jonathan Hobday, said: “We welcome Prasa acknowledging responsibility and their commitment to service delivery. The area should be constantly monitored and should be cleared at least once a week. Our view is that security at railway stations, including Mowbray station, is still inadequate and needs rapid upgrading.”
He said lockdown restrictions have definitely had an impact on such operations but it should be less problematical by now as these restrictions are eased.
Liesbeek Neighbourhood Watch member, Carol Thomson, said: “Mowing and cleaning is not enough. Prasa needs to fence the area and contribute to its cost as well. The cost for fencing is minimal compared to weekly cleaning and mowing.”
Ms Thomson said that Prasa should not use Covid-19 as an excuse because this has been an issue many years ago. Residents along this railway line have also suffered for years as a result.
A Mowbray resident, who lives along the railway line and who doesn’t want to be named for fear of his own safety, said: “Covid-19 is the new normal and I appreciate that there must have been issues initially, but now over 12 months on they need to make a plan. The station is a mess, the rubbish thrown on the verges by the bus station is shocking and the fence is broken for almost 15 months now.”
He said the cameras surrounding the railway station seem to not be effective at all. Even if they are, there seems to be no response.
“I have been burgled twice by people entering my property from Prasa land. I am right next to the platform, so the CCTV or security should have seen this. Also, if there was active surveillance then the drug users would not feel so comfortable using drugs openly,” he said.
He said that homeless people are not bothered by security guards at all. The station is the homeless and drug users’ domain and they are in control instead of Prasa.
Ward 57 councillor Patrick Chapple said: “Stations are filthy and dangerous, squatters have invaded all along the line and train carriages are an insult to the commuters. The National Ministers war room has achieved nothing and in fact gone backwards.”
The “war room” brings role-players in various key departments together to discuss priority issues across different sectors.