Ire over fence

The broken fence along Betsie Verwoerd Street and Jakes Gerwel Drive in Goodwood.
A broken fence on a municipal road-reserve in Goodwood creates a crime-and-safety hazard, say civic groups who accuse the City of ignoring the problem.
Glenwood Neighbourhood Watch chairman James Ellis said he and fellow residents had raised “serious concerns” with the City about the broken fence along Betsie Verwoerd Street and Jakes Gerwel Drive.

“We have been struggling with this issue for the past year. Nothing is happening with these fences when it comes to repairs except creating opportunities for criminals to infiltrate the community by means of short-cuts,” he said.

Some in the community members had tried to fix went as far as to try and the fence themselves, Mr Ellis said, adding that he had emailed the City last week asking how long residents would have to wait for the fence to be repaired. 

Goodwood Community Police Forum (CPF) John Ross said he had received many complaints, especially from the neighbourhood watch groups, about the broken fence. 

“This has been raised at the CPF executive meetings with SAPS (nothing much they can do about a broken fence) as well as the ward councillor, who has stated that there is no budget to continually repair that stretch of fence which has been repaired and broken again,” he said.

It was hard to find a lasting solution, because the fence was no sooner repaired by neighbourhood-watch members than it was broken again, Mr Ross said. 

Resident Jas Visser said there had been problems with the fence opposite Betsie Verwoerd Street for more than a year. 
“Neighbourhood Watch members have been trying to make emergency repairs to this fence on numerous occasions, but it gets broken down and opened up, time and time again,” he said.

He claimed criminals exploited gaps in the fence to commit crime in the neighbourhood and make a quick escape. And children were at risk of being hit by cars on Jakes Gerwel Drive.

“A car recently crashed through the fence on Betsie Verwoerd Street, and it created an even bigger ‘free access’ from Jakes Gerwel Drive,” Mr Visser said.

Residents were angered by an email from City transport official Deon Botha that was forwarded to them by Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg. 

In the email, dated Thursday June 27, Mr Botha says: “The fence is not a safety fence to protect private property. The safety of property is the responsibility of the residents and owners. There is no stock held in the depots for the fence. A request for quotation process will have to be followed.”

Mr Visser said no one had ever called the fence a safety fence, but it certainly helped to keep criminals out of the area.
“Mr Botha is stating the obvious with regards to who is responsible for the safety of property. Ratepayers are already spending thousands on private-security measures, to combat crime and now to receive nonsensical statements such as this, is actually alarming and very disappointing, to say the least.”

Mr Visser said the solution was very simple. “Fix the fence and stop responding to residents and ratepayers in this arrogant and condescending manner. We will be faced with a serious incident, sooner rather than later, and who will then be held accountable?”

Jeanine du Preez, a district manager from the City’s roads infrastructure and management, transport directorate, said the City had last replaced the fence in 2012.

“We appreciate the challenges residents face and acknowledge that individual protection of properties throughout the City is important to each resident. It is however impossible for the City to provide walls and fences to all communities and to ensure that individual properties is protected against all forms of crime,” she said.

Previous damaged sections of the N7 highway fence, between Milton Road and Frans Conradie Drive, had been fixed by the City late last year, she said. 

“The current damage at 9 Betsie Verwoerd Street was only recently brought to our attention. The process to have these repairs done has already commenced. We anticipate to have the required maintenance completed by the end of August, but we will endeavour to have it done as soon as possible. In the interim our department will be instructed to make the area safe,” she said.

Goodwood Neighbourhood Watch chairwoman Leona van Wyk said: “The broken fence is a matter of concern to many homeowners as the children play on the field next to the fence, and it is a matter of time till a ball goes through the broken fence and a child runs after it between the traffic on Jakes Gerwel Drive. We would not even want to imagine the consequences of that and the question then stands: who will be held responsible?”

Ms Van Wyk said it was unacceptable for the City to say there was no budget for the repairs.

“The taxes we pay kill us, and all we ask is fix the necessary in Goodwood. This is the same city that teaches the ‘broken window’ principle yet they do not walk the talk,” she said.”

Ms van Rensburg was sent questions, but did not respond by the time this edition went to print.