Prison camp a no-no

TASNEEM HASSAN

Monte Vista residents are worried about the homeless people who are squatting on vacant state-owned land off Drakenstein Road, after two people were stabbed there last week.

Goodwood police spokesman Lieutenant Waynne Theunis, said a woman and her boyfriend, who live in the bush next to the Goodwood Prison, were stabbed by a friend of theirs. The two are in a stable condition, and a 42-year-old man appeared on an assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm charge in the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday April 12.

Monte Vista Neighbourhood Watch chairwoman Lee Jepson is worried the vagrancy on land next to the prison will turn into an informal settlement. She said when watch patrollers stopped and searched bin scratchers at night, they found they had come from there.

“When we ask them where they going, they always have the same answer – going back to the prison grounds. That’s where they live,” said Ms Jepson.

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The squatters loitered in the area, knocked on residents’ doors begging for money and rifled through bins.

“This is a huge concern for us. They pose a security threat to the community,” said Ms Jepson.

Monte Vista residents Helena Kieser and Zelda Joubert joined the Monte Vista Ratepayers’ Association recently after hearing of growing concerns about the people on the prison land.

Ms Kieser said she and Ms Joubert had discussed the issue with the City’s land invasion unit.

She said according to what the police had told her, there were 11 families with children living on the land without any ablution facilities.

She lives opposite the land and said she feared for the safety of the children whom she saw passing through the area daily on a service road through the bush to get to and from school.

“The children are vulnerable. It is a major concern for me. Since the stabbing incident that I heard about, I am even more concerned,” said Ms Kieser.

Ms Joubert said she and Ms Kieser were acting in the interest of the community by trying to get the authorities to move the homeless people from the property.

“We need to keep our community safe. We can’t have people from outside wandering our streets,” she said, echoing Ms Jepson’s fears of the camp turning into a fully fledged informal settlement.

“We need to stop it in time. Our property prices will start dropping, and people won’t want to live here. The safety of this area, its residents and children are of utmost importance.” said Ms Joubert.

“We sleep with one eye open and one eye closed. When we hear a dog bark, we jump up to see that everything is okay.”

Ms Joubert said it was important for the community to be made aware of the issue, because high bushes obscured the homeless camp from the road.

Despite the residents’ fears, Lieutenant Theunis said there had been no alarming increase in crime in the area and there was no evidence suggesting the homeless people were linked to any of the existing crime.

“This has not been proven. When I visited the homeless people on that property, one guy told me, ‘Mr policeman, how can we be involved in crime, because we know if we commit any crimes, the people look at us.’,” said Lieutenant Theunis.

He doesn’t know when the camp was set up, but says it was there before the beginning of the year.

Ward 1 councillor Sakkie Pretorius said he had received many complaints about the homeless people and he was also concerned about safety in the community. The issue had come up at the last ratepayers’ meeting, he said.

Goodwood Prison spokesman Jo-Ann Christians said they were aware of the homeless people living on the property next to the the prison and had received complaints, but they were unable to do anything as the property did not belong to the Department of Correctional Services.

Northern News sent questions to the Department of Public Works and the City of Cape Town about the land, but did not receive responses by the ti