The quarry next to the University of Stellenbosch Business School in Bellville continues to be plagued by squatters who are living there, say residents.
Despite many efforts to remove them, the squatters return, much to the despair of Bellville residents, some of whom accuse them of being linked to various crimes in the area.
Hoheizen Residents’ Association chairman Erwin Kretschmer says the area remains a big concern.
“Most of our petty crimes originate from that area. We have tried to catch these criminals who climb over the border walls to gain entry. When we try and catch them, they often run into the quarry to hide. We have even raised the boundary walls, but just last week we had two break-ins in the vicinity,” he said.
The Bellville police and security firms held a special operation at the quarry on Wednesday March 23 to gather information on those living there.
Bassett Alarms’ police and neighbourhood watch liaison officer Hennie Groenewald, who accompanied the police on this operation, said the situation had been going on for five years and he had been shocked to see the current condition of the quarry.
“We conduct regular patrols at this specific area, as we often receive complaints from clients including the Engen garage, regarding the vagrants in this area,” he said.
Mr Groenewald said the object of the operation had been to record the names of everyone living at the quarry and they had not torn down any shacks or removed anyone from the area.
Captain Alwyn Jenkins from Bellville police said two of the squatters had been arrested after they were linked to burglaries.
The operation found that about 15 people were living at the quarry.
“We found that a few of those living there are actually not from the area but from places such as Uitsig and Belhar. They choose to stay here at the quarry, as it is closer to Bellville,” Mr Groenewald said.
University of Stellenbosch Business School spokesman Heindrich Wyngaard said they had received reports of burglaries in the area, for which some of the squatters had been blamed.
“We are holding regular meetings with the police and the local law enforcement units, to assess the situation and discuss solutions,” he said.
Bellville police spokesperson Major Fienie Nimb said they received a lot of complaints from residents about the squatters.
“We have seen an increase in business break-ins and conduct these regular check-ups at the quarry to see if anyone is linked to these crimes,” she said.
Mr Jenkins said the police were in talks with the university over plans to relocate the squatters.
Northern News previously reported (“No quarter for quarry homeless,” Thursday December 10, 2015) that the university might consider getting an interdict against the squatters.
However, Mr Wyngaard said the university had not done that.
Mr Kretschmer said: “The situation was far worse last year. Bellville police are taking strong action in the area since the appointment of the new station commander.”
Ward 70 councillor Andrea Crous said when Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato had visited the area in September last year, it had been found that the people living there were not homeless, but criminals or drug dealers.
“There have been reports of break-ins from this land to the bordering properties such as Hoheizen, Welgemoed Greens and Doordekraal. I work closely with the Welgemoed Greens Residents’ Association and the Hoheizen Residents’ Association, which regularly send information to the police and the university,” said Ms Crous.