Sort out sports ground

ensure Goodwood remains a safe and secure place for all who live and work there.

There is no doubt that the Goodwood sports grounds are very popular and are used extensively, and should be regarded as an asset by the council.

There are two entrances – the Milton Road entrance is unchained for events, the other has been open for decades. The security staff is a joke and the contractor appointed to keep the area clean is an unknown factor. There is constantly litter on the premises.

The pine trees at the sports ground offer shade from the sun and a home base for the homeless who enter the premises via the open gates or over the boundary walls. I recently saw a violent outbreak between irate homeless people and the residents of Spencer Street, Goodwood, after the vagrants’ shacks were demolished.

What was the council’s reaction? JP Smith blames the criminal justice system for “kicking out” minor offenses, yet the sports and recreation head has issued instructions for his staff to press charges.

However, while JP Smith endeavours to placate residents with the assurance that we are working towards a community court, there is just so much that law enforcement can do.

In 2006, violations along Voorterkker Road, Goodwood, by second-hand dealers and garages came under the spotlight. It even became an hour-long issue on radio. He was going to deal with it, today it is even worse.

The then ANC regime of the City failed to deal with an illegal trader outside Vasco station. Along came the DA crowd and JP had a number of letters sent to him. It is now March 2016 and the trading still continues. Talk about the criminal justice system. “Together we can” all keep our snouts firmly in the troughs.

* Belinda Walker, mayoral committee member for community services and special projects, responds:

The Goodwood sports ground facility is cleaned every Monday. There are considerable challenges experienced with illegal dumping, but the City’s sport, recreation and amenities (SRA) department is working with an active neighbourhood watch that assists with oversight and reports such offences. If vagrants are found on the property, law enforcement is contacted.

In addition, the SRA department lays charges for unauthorised activities and trespassing by any unauthorised persons with the South African Police Service.

* JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, responds:

I am not responsible for parks and sports grounds that fall under the sport, recreation and amenities department, nor for the state of cleansing of these, or the appointment of security guards, or the management of such security, which is undertaken by the custodian department. The City acts consistently against anyone found breaking the law, whether homeless or residents of an area. The writer acknowledges the illegal structures of the “vagrant” were demolished. If the homeless person in question engaged in assault, intimidation, or any other crime then this has to be reported to SAPS, which has the exclusive investigative competency to investigate crimes – metro police may, by law, not do so.

The City of Cape Town has a number of by-laws designed to address the issues the writer mentions. Our staff implement the provisions of those by-laws to the best of their ability. The number of Section 56 notices issued to appear in court, confiscations, fines and arrests made attest to that commitment. These statistics are freely available in our quarterly reports which are available for public consumption.

Our law enforcement staff conduct regular operations to remove people who break the Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances By-Law. The reality is that they return to the sites almost as soon as our staff leave. We do make arrests where the circumstances necessitate this, but vagrancy is not a priority in the South African criminal context, and so they are released back onto the streets with a warning and are untraceable because they do not have a fixed address. How then do we get them back to court to face the charges? This is why the City takes a more holistic approach, seeking to get people off the streets and reintegrate them back into their communities. The writer’s complaints about “informal traders and garages” is not necessarily valid. Just because he does not like them, does not mean that the City has valid and legal reasons for addressing or removing them. If there were, we would have acted. Part of the problem has, however, been the lack of effective legislation and regulations, without which law enforcement cannot act on the things people like the complainant are raising. The recent adoption of an informal trading plan for the ward will allow the City to address some of the regulatory issues which in turn will allow law enforcement to act.The problems and their solutions are almost always clearer to see from an armchair. It is a very different prospect when you’re trying to balance the rights of everyone while dealing with the challenges of a criminal justice system that is not operating optimally.

* Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg responds:

The relevant law enforcement agencies carry out regular interventions in Goodwood. Apart from special operations, which include focused intervention from the social development department’s reintegration unit, the so-called hot spots are monitored and patrolled daily.

It is regrettable that the street people are inclined to refuse assistance from the reintegration unit.

In terms of the informal trading at Vasco station, we have dealt with a trader who has persisted to trade illegally. He has been arrested and served jail time. There have been numerous operations to prevent him from trading outside the station, but also to provide alternative trading space for him and his wife. At this point, he is not trading again, but should he resume trading and insist on operating outside the demarcated area, law enforcement will intervene once again. As ward councillor, I engage with all roleplayers to ensure that Goodwood remains a safe and secure place for all who live and work there.