Empty land attracts crime, say residents

A view from Mostert Street.

Criminals are using two large tracts of bushy land in Kraaifontein as hideouts and escape routes, says the community.

Residents say several dog walkers have fallen prey to muggers in streets near the bushy plots that are awaiting development.

And homes in the area, they add, are robbed frequently.

Residents say they have complained to the City of Cape Town since 2015, but nothing has been done to maintain the plots or fence them off.

Bo-Mo Developments owns an 18-hectare plot that stretches from Okavango Road to Sarel van Deventer Road, and a 4ha plot, stretching from Mostert Street to Sarel van Deventer and Darwin Road, is owned by Combined Developments.

It is believed the delay in having the bushes and trees cleared is due to the presence of an endangered species of Aspalathus on both plots.

Resident Lorna Beesley said she had seen a woman being robbed by men who had come out of the bush and then slipped back into it.

This area is no longer safe, and we cannot walk here,” she said.

Carel van der Merwe said he had raised his walls because of a growing number of burglaries in the area.

“My car used to stand in the front yard, and it could be unlocked – no one would touch it, but now we cannot do that. If something is found lying in your yard it surely will disappear into that bush.”

Kraaifontein Neighbourhood Watch’s Sector 4 spokesman Ruben Myburgh said watch members refused to enter the bush.

“I cannot take my daughter for a ride on her bike and people fear walking their dogs along the road and on the sports grounds,” he said.

He believes the only solution is to get rid of the bush, but that also carries a risk.

“If the trees are removed and it is an open field there might be land invasions so in this case someone would have to monitor the area so no land invasion can take place. It’s a Catch 22.”

The Kraaifontein Sports Club on Sarel van Deventer Road remains a target, according to club chairman Nico le Roux.

“Over the past few years, the club has been targeted by vandals and there are constant break-ins at the clubhouses,” he said.

Ward 103 committee member Lesley Ashton said: “In the past, there had been squatters on the plots but the community put an end to it before it could get out of control. However, now the area has become unsafe. On and off for the last two years we have been fighting with the City to have the bush cleared.”

Bo-Mo Developments director Isaac Borochowitz said they had received final approval from the City’s municipal planning tribunal last week to develop the site. Ground work would start in the next three to four weeks and construction of the housing would happen after that.

Combined Developers project coordinator Matthew Christians said: “The issue has been brought to our attention. We have an agreement with the City to maintain the area in the meantime.”

The plot owned by Combined Developments will be used for warehouse and industrial purposes. Bo-Mo Developments will use the 18-hectare plot for warehouse and industrial purposes as well as building 271 residential units on the plot.

City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said some delays had been caused by the issuing of the environmental authorisation by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning for both plots.

The authorisation had been issued in early February, he said, but the City’s biodiversity management branch had suggested ways to minimise the impact of development on the endangered plant species in the area.

“In the area generally, there is an endangered species and a small remnant of the critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos. However, no mention was made in the environmental authorisation or the relevant specialist environmental studies of any protected and endangered plant on site,” he said.

The final approval from the planning tribunal, he added, had been issued on May 9, and “the onus is now on the developer to act on the approval that was issued”.

He added that the City had issued Combined Developments with a notice to clear the area within 21 days, but the firm had failed to comply giving the City the authority to do so at the owner’s expense.

“The developers gave permission to the City of Cape Town to clear the vacant land at their expense. The cost will be charged to their municipal account.

Kraaifontein SAPS did not respond to media enquiries from Northern News after emails were sent on Friday, May 11.