It’s mid-afternoon on Friday January 13 as a car pulls up at a house in Firtree Street, Steurhof Estate. As quickly as it arrives, it moves off again.
At the same time, two tall thin men slip into the run-down house, which residents say is one of two drug dens plaguing the neighbourhood.
Firtree is one of about eight roads in the tiny Steurhof Estate, which is bounded by Plumstead, Diep River, the 3 Arts, retirement villages and Constantiaberg Mediclinic. At its heart, is South Peninsula High School.
The community was forcibly removed under the Group Areas Act, and, in 2007, families opted for housing development as compensation for their lost tenancy rights.
In June last year, mayor Patricia de Lille handed over 45 title deeds to residents there (“Steurhof land claimants home owners at last,” Bulletin June 9 2016).
Today, many houses have been renovated and feature new window frames, carports and gardens with swings and flower beds. This is not the case with the house in Firtree Street.
With curtains drawn and peeling paint, the driveway is bordered by sandbags and broken televisions and computer monitors.
At the rear, through a broken fence, are a row of what some call bungalows and others call shacks.
Residents may have won the battle to take back their homes but now they are fighting to protect their children.
Late last year, Rosa-Lee Davids posted a message on the Bulletin’s Facebook page, claiming that drug dealing was taking place from two Steurhof houses.
Residents feared their children were being lured into the drugs trade by neighbourhood dealers, she said. Constable Zak Marais, the Diep River police sector commander for the area, said they had been working closely with community leaders following a meeting at the end of last year. And Constable Amanda Gordon said Steurhof residents had signed a petition asking for something to be done about drug dealing in the area.
One of the alleged drug dealers at the Firtree Street house had been arrested many times on various charges, Constable Gordon said. He had been arrested twice in December alone and was out on bail and due to appear in
the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on February 9 on a charge of malicious damage to property.
A resident, who did not want to be named as she fears for her life, said drug cartels were trying to gain a foothold in the area. “We call it dial a drug,” she said.
Ward 73 Councillor Carol Bew said she was aware of the drug activity in the area, while City spokeswoman Priya Reddy, said occupants of the Firtree Street house, which is still a council-owned property, faced legal action, because they were not the legal tenants and had ignored a notice to vacate.
Another Firtree Street house identified as a drug den by Ms Davids had been sold to the legal tenant, said Ms Reddy, adding that the City had no records of arrests at that property.
Constable Marais said reports of drug dealing in the area had galvanised residents to fight crime in their neighbourhood. They were now patrolling their streets and the Diep River police were eager to work with them, he said.
Constable Gordon said the police knew who the repeat offenders were and found it frustrating that they committed more crime while out on bail The reluctance of witnesses to testify also made it hard to put offenders behind bars.