Volunteers came together last Saturday to clear tons of rubbish and rubble choking a Woodstock alley.
The alley leads off from a Wright Street property. Known as “The Plaasie” (The Little Farm), the area has become an informal settlement over the past eight years with some 40 to 50 people living in shacks or shelters propped against dilapidated buildings, according to Woodstock Community Police Forum’s Sector 4 chairman Shamiel Abbass.
The Woodstock Community Action Network (CAN), the Woodstock Residents’ Association, Move One Million (M1M), the Development Action Group (DAG) and residents joined the clean-up.
Hester Bergh, who is part of both the CAN and CPF, said the detritus had become a safety issue for both the squatters and residents. “I don’t think that the people living there are aware of the dangers they face, and the people that live there can’t be blamed for all of the rubble.”
The volunteers had found many dead rats among the rubble and litter, she said.
They had filled 150 garbage bags without making a dent, she said. Municipal waste collectors had collected the bags, and the volunteers had filled another 150 bags.
Mr Abbass said it was good seeing the community come together. “Even the occupiers who stay in those informal settlements got involved. They took ownership in trying to clean the area.”
Loreen Rademeyer, from M1M, was impressed with the spirit of camaraderie. “If we can affect someone’s life in a positive way, it will serve as part of our mission,” she said.
Lorenzo Johnson, from DAG, said he had joined the clean-up to get to know the community. “I realised that collecting rubble in bags was not going to do the job completely, so I got in touch with a construction company to assist.”
The firm sent a truck and a Bobcat skid-steer loader that cleared another eight tons of dirt on Tuesday August 8.
Ward councillor Ian McMahon said according to his records, the property’s owner was deceased.
“The City has served notices to clean up his property and have the sewerage repaired or give access for such, and this, due to it being private property, is the cause of where we are,” he said.
The City could only provide wheelie bins if they were attached to a municipal account and paid for, he said.
Woodstock police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Alroy van der Berg welcomed the clean-up, saying illegal dumping created an environment for crime to thrive and criminals used the mounds of rubble to hide weapons and drugs.
Ms Rademeyer said that while they had made big strides in cleaning the area, they were not done yet.