The country’s passenger-rail parastatal is getting the public to clean up its mess without warning of the risks, such as potential jabs from drug users’ discarded needles.
So said a handful of protesters who stopped volunteers doing a clean-up at the Kenilworth railway station on Saturday.
Kenilworth Residents’ Association (KRA) committee member Rory Moore accused the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) of putting members of the public at risk to do its job for it.
“We witnessed prostitutes doing business here; we have seen drug abuse, with people with blue bags over their heads and people using needles and people using the area as a toilet,” he said.
“This is Prasa’s job. They are not taking care of their property, and they are trying to get those in the neighbourhood to endanger their lives by cleaning this railway area.”
Another protester, Nick Desmond-Smith, said crime and grime were eating away at the corridor between Kenilworth and Wynberg stations.
“There is heavy drug use in the area,” he said. “We are worried that someone is going to get a needle stick while cleaning. There is broken glass everywhere and hazardous materials.”
The clean-up was called off, after its supervisor, Metrorail special project manager George Kiewiets, phoned his boss, provincial Prasa head Richard Walker, to tell him about the protesters.
Mr Kiewiets handed the phone to Mr Moore so he could tell Mr Walker what he was concerned about.
Mr Kiewiets told the Tatler that security guards accompanied volunteers whenever there was a clean-up, and railway staff did site inspections and clean-ups ahead of volunteer groups to smooth the way for them.
Kenilworth resident Henk Egberink, who was one of the 10 clean-up volunteers, said he was simply trying to improve the neighbourhood.
“I don’t understand the residents’ arguments in opposing the clean-up. They raised the safety issues, and those who oppose the clean-up say children may be helping, but if that is the case, then they must not bring the children with,” he said.
Mr Egberink said he had seen parents with their children on previous clean-ups, but they had wanted to teach them about looking after the environment and had supervised them.
No children participated in last Saturday’s railway clean-up.
Harfield resident Gail Brown said she had done clean-ups at Harfield railway station for nearly eight years and was disappointed that the clean-up at Kenilworth station had been stopped.
“The majority of residents in Cape Town wish to help Prasa clean up their railways, beautify them and create gardens to benefit every resident of Cape Town,” she said.
Ms Brown said neither she nor anyone else who had joined her on a railway clean-up had been injured.
Ward councillors Ian Iversen and Sharon Cottle were at the clean-up. Mr Iversen said the clean-ups had been done for many years without any problems.
“People need to be sensible when cleaning up. If they see needles or faeces, they need to move around it,” he said.
Ms Cottle said the clean-ups were done in partnership with the City, Prasa and the community.
“We have been successful in doing the clean-ups at other parts of the railway, though we need to understand the dangers. We need to prepare for it and it is all voluntary.”