Doordrift Greenbelt should be home to frogs, fish and birdlife, but instead it has become a cesspool of faeces, litter, drug dealers and sex workers and if these problems aren’t tackled soon the area is going to become a lost cause, warn community acti- vists Malcolm Clark and Anne Mayne.
The Bulletin met with local resident Mr Clark and Doordrift river warden Ms Mayne of the Friends of Constantia Valley Green- belts (FoCVG) in Hauptville Circle, bordering this stretch of green- belt.
Mr Clark, who was pelted with stones while walking on the greenbelt last year and whose property was burgled on Sunday February 28, said there was a show of force recently when Bergvliet Kreupelbosch Meadowridge (BKM) patrollers swamped the Barbarossa area for three hours. But more needs to be done, he says.
He wants people to join the BKM to help rid the area of crime and grime. He believe patrolling is the answer. “They’ve seen this in Kreupelbosch where there’s always someone on patrol, and they have the least amount of crime. We have the least amount of patrollers and the highest number of crimes,” he said.
As we follow the greenbelt towards the M3 junction with Constantia Main Road, three men and a cat appear on the opposite riverbank below a fence boundary of Norman Henshilwood High and Monterey Pre-Primary schools.
“We gonna throw you stones again (sic),” yells one of the men. Mr Clark pointed nearby, saying it was here that a stone had just missed his head when he was attacked last year.
One of the men on the opposite bank shakes his fist at being photographed, saying he knows his constitutional rights and he has a right to stay there.
A woman wearing a short skirt and heels scrambles down the bank and makes a quick retreat when she sees us. Mr Clark and Ms Mayne agree she is most likely a sex worker looking for drugs.
Ms Mayne and Mr Clark also know of a man who has built a “beautiful” shelter in the bushes where he lives with two small children. They say social workers have been there.
The FoCVG recently held a meeting and discussed the retention ponds, between Alphen Drive and the M3, which chairman James Rawlings describes as a “cesspool”.
“The City must concrete it over. There should be signs along the river warning people not to allow their children and dogs into the water,” said Mr Rawlings. He has also found weapons in the bush alongside the river.
In October last year Brenda Cornfield, representing residents of Barbarossa, wrote to David Millar, principal of Norman Henshilwood High, saying they had spent a Sunday morning cleaning up the Doordrift Greenbelt.
She wrote about squatters next to the school on a pile of rubbish and rubble, which included tennis court resurfacing.
Mr Millar told the Bulletin he and the school’s estate manager had done an extensive survey of the land adjacent to the school. He said he had been appalled to find squatters had created a one-roomed “house” on a pathway adjacent to the river, and another person was living 10m from their boundary.
“We have contacted the authorities on several occasions and have seen them remove the squatters. However, they are back as soon as they are removed,” said Mr Millar.
He said they used the water from the river to water their fields twice a week in the evenings.
Glenda Jupp of Monterey Pre-Primary said they were aware of the homeless people living alongside the boundary fence but had not experienced any issues at the pre- school.
Barbarossa resident Guy Jameson said squatting was a major health hazard due to the defecation in the bushes and people crossing the highway.
Warrant Officer Keith Chandler of Diep River police confirmed that there is an increase in the activity of homeless people in the area, but said they had not received reports of drug activity in the Doordrift area. There had been one or two burglaries in the area but no big increase.
Ward councillors Carol Bew and Elizabeth Brunette, in whose wards the river flows, were repeatedly asked to comment, as well as BKM but by the time this edition went to print, they had not yet responded.