All not well on Tokai greenbelt

The walkabout was organised by councillor Penny East

Dumping, leaking sewers and swimming-pool backwash contaminating a river, were just some of the things City officials and residents found on a tour of a Tokai greenbelt last week.

The walkabout in the Prinskasteel River greenbelt, called for by ward councillor Penny East, followed the death of Roger Priestman, who was attacked by two men, one carrying a gun, in his Dennedal East home on Thursday February 11, at 10am. Police say Mr Priestman was hit with the gun before both men fled with a laptop. Mr Priestman died in hospital on Wednesday February 17.”

In a statement following his death, the Tokai Residents’ Association said they understood the perpetrators had gained access to the house in broad daylight from the Tokai greenbelt. However, Kirstenhof police spokeswoman Sergeant Deidre Solomon told the Bulletin this week that it was unclear at this stage where the perpetrators had come from or fled to.

Mr Priestman’s son, Dean, was at the walkabout. After a minute’s silence for his father, the group of 20-odd residents and City officials walked west along the Prinskasteel River from Maryland Road.

The dumping, leaking sewers, and the backwashed swimming-pool water going into the river were spotted along the 2km route to Orpen Road. At the junction of the river with Orpen Road, a fence with razor wire has been built, but no one in the group knew who had put it up.

Residents and City officials who toured the Tokai greenbelt found swimming pool backwash being piped into a river

An official from the City’s invasive species unit spotted alien species that could be cleared to make the area less bushy. “It’s not just doing gardening,” he said. “Some species have to be removed as they are listed under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA).”

The aliens would be cleared in phases to avoid threatening what is a breeding site for the endangered western leopard toad, he said.

The toad only occurs on the Cape Peninsula, and towards the end of March, the toadlets find refuge on riverbanks.

In what residents call “the dip”, Dennedal Avenue, Ms East said the dense stand of cannas would be cleared to deter criminal elements and dumping. According to the NEMBA, cannas are a category 1b invasive and require compulsory removal.

At the junction of the river with Orpen Road a fence with razor wire has been put up, but no one on the walkabout knew who was responsible for it.

Nicky Schmidt, chairperson of Parkscape, said it was sad that it had taken something like the attack on Mr Priestman for the walkabout to happen. The greenbelt was public open space and should be used by the community, but, unfortunately, some parts were unkempt.

Volunteers on safety patrols in the Lower Tokai conservation site had found light bulbs used for tik, various goods they suspected had been discarded after robberies, and “nests” used by the homeless, she said, adding: “But some residents want the greenbelt to be left bushy as they think it affords better safety.”

Mary-Ann Burger, who lives nearby, said they paid a premium to live on the riverside. If the vegetation was cleared it would no longer be the habitat of caracal, otters, eagles, hawks and more.

Ms East said residents played a key role in caring for the area. “If you are walking through the area, pull out alien vegetation, such as stinkbean. A little at a time makes a big difference,” she said.