Still no solutions on Mascani settlement

A view from the Harbour View property in Woodstock that overlooks the Mascani informal settlement.

The Mascani informal settlement remains a blight on the suburb and the authorities want the state-owned rail company which owns the land to take action.

Even after repeated police raids, people have continued to stream into the area. During the latest raid, at the beginning of June, Woodstock police arrested 61 people in Railway Street.

According to Woodstock po-
lice spokesman Sergeant Hilton Malila, police confiscated 36 bags of dagga, 37 tik lollies, 23 packets of tik, 10 mandrax tablets and an undisclosed amount of cash.

They also recovered 75 dustbin axles, 17 aluminium train doors, 38 aluminium train window frames, 130m of 8mm copper cables and 14 big bags of aluminium. The stolen property was identified by Metrorail officials who formed part of the operation.

Colonel Duma Ntsezo, of Woodstock police, said he was working with business owners, residents and the Woodstock Improvement District to find a solution to the three-year-long problem.

Police have now called on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to take action and they also want the departments of Home Affairs and Social Development to get involved.

At a recent meeting, there were calls for the vegetation in the area be cleared to remove hiding spots, the use of cameras to monitor illegal activity, lighting and the leasing by Prasa of the land.

Rachel Gregorowski, who lives at the upmarket Harbour View development overlooking Mascani, said she witnessed drug use and crime in the settlement daily.

“You see people every single day with plastic bags over their heads; they are using drugs, they are hanging their washing up there. I’ve seen people being mugged along the road, I’ve seen people being chased there and prostitution activity,” said Ms Gregorowski.

Marc Osstyn lived in the Hub, opposite Mascani, for two years before he started renting out his flat.

“We have four shelters located 20m away from our windows. We see guys are using drugs, dealing drugs, and now that we are no longer residents, we have guests (who) have been robbed at gunpoint,” said Mr Osstyn.

Woodstock Improvement District general manager Chris Lloyd said the Mascani settlement had been a problem for years and he believed the only solution was for Prasa to evict the trespassers or lease the property to a business so that the area could be upgraded.

Because the land is owned by Prasa, said Ward 115 councillor Dave Bryant, the City could not evict the people living there.

“The only thing that we can do is assist in terms of operations with our small Metro police unit and our law enforcement unit,” he said.

Marius Wagener, from Prasa’s Cape Town office, attended the meeting, but told the Tatler he could not comment on what was being discussed.

Prasa spokeswoman Zinobulali Mihi said they repeatedly removed people from informal settlements on their land but the problem was
recuring and needed a “holistic approach”

“Vacant Prasa property has been documented and efforts are made to either lease or develop these, depending on each property’s zoning and land use,” she said.

“The matter has been raised at monthly meetings with the City to emphasise the need for a holistic approach to the vagrancy phenomenon in metropolitan areas.

“The presence of indigent communities within the metropolitan area requires an integrated response.

“Finding a sustainable and cross-functional solution to an entrenched socio-economic dilemma is critical.”

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