Wingfield squatter concern

People have set up makeshift shelter of Jakes Gerwel Drive next to one of the entrances to the naval land.

Squatters have occupied land in the Wingfield area, and the Goodwood Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Associations says it fears more could follow if the authorities fail to act.

Faizel Petersen, the association’s chairman, says the squatting is part of a wider malady, including frequently heard gunshots.

“And with the silly season upon us, drunken driving on Jakes Gerwel Drive will increase, as will crime with the increase of vagrants in our area and criminals targeting our homes.”

Mr Petersen is particularly concerned about the increase of squatters along both sides of Jakes Gerwel Drive.

He says squatters have set up home on the corner of Betsie Verwoerd Street and Frans Conradie Drive in Tygerdal. And at the junctions of Totius and Smartt roads in Goodwood Estate. There is also a makeshift structure near Northlink College across the N7 from Townsend Estate.

Mr Petersen said a fence between the sprawling Wingfield land and residential areas had offered some security but much of it was broken or missing.

Goodwood police spokesman Captain Wayne Theunis said they had seen an increase in vagrants along Voortrekker Road at night.

He said the police and Law Enforcement would continue with their regular operations and patrols over the festive period. Mr Petersen said the association was also concerned about people who had settled on land at Olympic Park business area in Voortrekker Road. Their numbers were growing and very little was being done to remove them, he said. 

Northern News found people alongside the fence on both sides of Jakes Gerwel. The fence had sections damaged or missing.

The SAS Wingfield Naval Unit, based in Goodwood, is on the site of the World War II Wingfield Aerodrome.

The unit was established in 1961 to provide technical training and practical instruction to apprentices but now offers training to officers and sailors.

The northern and southern parts of Wingfield are used by the navy and managed by the national government.

The larger, central section of Wingfield – about 54.8 hectares – was the subject of a land claim by people  relocated to Langa under apartheid’s Group Areas Act. The claim was settled in October 2001 with six claimants and/or their descendants, represented by the Ndabeni Communal Property Trust, which took registration in 2004.

Brendan Manca, the attorney who acted on behalf of the late Gilbert Fesi, one of the six claimants, said he couldn’t comment and referred our questions to Theunis Steyn, of law firm ENSafrica. Mr Steyn was unable to speak to Northern News, but his associate, Logan Huskie said they had no comment on the state of the trust.

Northern News also tried to get comment from trustees Advocate Anda Njeza, Attorney Ashley Meyer and Mr Fesi’s daughter Fikiswa, but they did not respond to messages.

The security building at the entrance to the trust land has been vandalised, the fence is broken in places and the land is dense with invasive vegetation.

At the southern end, a group of people were inspecting the fence between the trust land and naval land.

A navy officer spoke unofficially to Northern News about vagrants living in makeshift shelters alongside the fence. He said there were regular breaks-in on the base by people looking for basic needs such as water. He said he had no idea what the City was doing about the community next to Olympic Park but it kept growing.

He added that gunshots were heard regularly and appeared to come from the Kensington area.

According to mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi, the dwellings on the west side of Wingfield, closest to the factories are on Ndabeni trust land and have been there since 2000.

The City recognised them on its informal settlement database due to humanitarian consideration and provided basic services of standpipes and chemical toilets, he said.

“There are about 15 families registered on our database. They are a close-knit community and the numbers remain stable. The City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit and the Informal Settements Department staff monitor this settlement for growth although the City is under no legal obligation to do so as it is not City-owned land,” Mr Booi said.

Mr Booi said the City was not responsible for the upkeep of the fencing along Jakes Gerwel Drive.

Nicolette Abrahams – a mother of three childred aged 4, 6 and 8 – said she had lived along Olympic Park 18 years, after leaving her home in Bonteheuwel.

As she spoke, a man arrived with donations of water and clothes. Ms Abrahams said he and many other people were generous to this community.

Questions sent to the departments of public works and infrastructure, defence and military veterans, and the navy went unanswered.       

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