Nothing is being done to check the slum-like conditions in Wynberg’s Ebor precinct, say business owners who fear they and their customers will pay the price as the area is left to rot.
They complain of, among other things, urinating in public, squatters, car and property theft and break-ins, leaking sewage, and slumlords squeezing every last cent from tenants living in packed, dark, filthy rooms with poor sanitation and dubious electrical fittings.
They say all complaints to Wynberg law enforcement and the local councillor are falling on deaf ears.
Last year, police, law enforcement and City officials held an inspection of the properties bounded by Main, Ebor and York roads, divided by a narrow lane (“Eye on Wynberg hot spot,” Bulletin, November 22).
Eugene Dreyer, of Wynberg Sector 1 Neighbourhood Watch, said the situation was much as it was in November and as it had been for many years before that.
“Enforcement activities by the City and SAPS have been ongoing to deal with the issues created by this precinct. The landlords continue to exploit desperate people who pay rent to live in squalid and dangerous conditions, and, in doing so, adversely impact the surrounding area and monopolise the resources of the City and the state which should be serving the wider community,” he said.
Wynberg police spokesperson Captain Ntombi Lindipasi said SAPS, Wynberg Improvement District (WID) and the City’s fire and roads departments had met on Friday March 1 in the lane between York and Ebor roads.
On two recent visits, the Bulletin found a tent pitched on the pavement, washing hanging from barbed wire, broken pavement and a shebeen running from a so-called church.
The road was clean apparently because business owners have hired someone to clean it three times a week.
Business owners are reluctant to be named, saying they fear victimisation from their landlords and the vagrants in Ebor Road.
Leif Petersen, of community organisation Sustainable Livelihoods, said the squalor was caused by a couple of wealthy landlords who were holding that part of Wynberg hostage.
“It’s a classic example of officials unable to maintain legislation and then abdicating control,” he said
Last year, Mr Petersen said, he had had to shovel raw sewage flowing onto his property from the overcrowded slum next door.
This week, a woman had her hubcaps stolen, and a few days before, there had been a “semi riot” outside the shebeen.
Now and then, the electricity and water were cut off to the tenants but it made no difference, he said.
Last year, ward councillor Liz Brunette said municipal arrears for the problem buildings at 8 and 10 Ebor Road had run into millions of rand.
Sarah Foale – who with husband, Mark, owns a furniture business in the area – said they had watched the steady decline of the area over the past 20 years.
She said cars were vandalised regularly; batteries and spare wheels
stolen, and lights smashed to get the bulbs.
The couple have put pot plants on their stoep to stop vagrants sleeping there because they had to clean up “every kind of effluent every morning”.
Barry Wrankmore, who runs a painting business from the cul-de-sac, said the Ebor Road steering committee had tried unsuccessfully to join the WID to tackle problems spilling over into public spaces from the Uli Heydt and Jonathan Katz properties, including illegal dumping, sewer overload, waste water, drinking in public, and more.
WID’s Athol Swanson said they had met with property owners and the City last year to discuss possible inclusion in the WID.
“Due to the poor ‘payment ratio’, part of the City’s assessment, and monies already owed to the City – primarily by the Heydt and Katz properties in the proposed area – we were unable to proceed,” said Mr Swanson.
“Bullshit, it’s defamation,” said Mr Katz when asked about allegations of him being a slum lord. He said his plans to build a block of flats had been held up by objections from neighbours.
“Who would invest millions of rand building a block of flats when its appeal would be lost by putting spaza shops where the parking is?” asked Mr Katz. “If there is no parking, I would not be able to rent out the flats. Would a new block improve the area?”
Mayoral committee member for transport Felicity Purchase said that during a recent “site visit”, the City had found unauthorised building work happening in a municipal road reserve.
“They are serving notices on the affected parties for illegal works on Ebor Lane,” she said.
Asked if anything had been done about the state of some of the buildings following the November inspection, the City’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, said the Problem Buildings Unit did not deal with landlords and was not planning another site visit.
Captain Lindipasi said 39 people with expired asylum papers had been arrested in the area on Wednesday February 27 and official stamps, which had been stolen from Home Affairs in 2016, had been seized. Fourteen of those held had later been released after producing legal documents.
The Bulletin sent questions to Ms Brunette on Tuesday February 12 and reminders, but she did not respond.
We also tried to get hold of Uli Heydt on landline and cell numbers we had used previously. One is
no longer in service and the cell number either
cuts out or is not answered. We asked the City,
neighbours, WID and his ex-wife to help us
contact him, but they do not have his latest contact details.