Councillor calls for Prasa to clean up its act

Expanded Public Works Programme workers cleaned up around a squatter camp under the Prince George Drive bridge on Monday November 14.

Nearly 50 Expanded Public Works Programme workers arrived on Monday morning November 14 to clean up in a squatter camp under a bridge on Prince George Drive, between Plumstead and Fairways, through which the Cape Flats central line runs.

The crew could only clean around the camp but not demolish the makeshift shelters.

Ward 63 councillor Carmen Siebritz, who organised the clean-up, said it would not yield results if the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) did not do its bit.

Nearly 15 people stay in the shelters on either side of the railway, according to those who live there.

Pedestrians use the bridge to reach Plumstead, Fairways and Southfield, and Plumstead Preparatory School is near the line.

Believing the situation to pose a health and safety risk, Ms Siebritz arranged for City sanitation managers, police and City Law Enforcement to visit the area last week.

Diep River SAPS sector commander Sergeant Zak Marais said the area under the bridge was an area of concern for crime, homelessness and hygiene, and it was a common “escape route” for criminals.

“One challenge that we note is that there is no actual fencing between the railway, making it an easy and quick ‘get away route’ as well as a danger to anyone who might cross the railway as one could be hit by an oncoming train.”

George Kiewiets, the Metrorail special project manager, said Prasa’s fencing programme for the province would include critical areas, but a draft of the programme, published in November last year, shows its focus is on the central line and not the Cape Flats line.

Ms Siebritz said she was considering closing lanes surrounding the preparatory school to vehicles for the safety of pupils as there had been reports of suspicious vehicles parking near or under the bridge.

“Totnes Road on the rear end of the school and Dragoon Road on the back end of the school pose safety risks to not only minor kids who attend the Plumstead Preparatory School but also the general public,” she said.

Ms Siebritz said Prasa was contributing to vagrancy and crime in the area by not looking after its property.

“I’ve met with Prasa on a few occasions to resolve this issue, but unfortunately there appears to be a lack of commitment. We need to form a partnership to get things right.

“I’ve tried engaging Prasa on various platforms: electronically, telephonically, hybrid meetings, online meetings, etc. We’ve had at least two hybrid meetings, which in my opinion were unproductive, and their representatives failed to produce a plan of action.”

Prasa’s acting regional manager Raymond Maseko said it and the City were working together to tackle vagrancy, informal settlements, crime and other matters. The partnership had intensified during lockdown as both institutions had seen accelerated occupation of vacant land.

Mr Kiewiets said Prasa had had many successes in addressing illegal squatting in the Western Cape.

“We do have an operational team that focuses on illegal squatters in the area precinct between Salt River and Simon’s Town. Planned joint intervention is taking place daily within the region by different teams as per area.”

Makeshift shelters under the bridge stand on either side of the Cape Flats line.