Wynberg’s grime worry

Men gamble in front of Langwyn flats in Langley Road. The broken garage door is alleged to be a postbox, collection point for drugs.

Crime, grime, prostitution, drug dealing and congestion are affecting residents and businesses in Wynberg.

The Wynberg Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (WRRA) is concerned about the type of outlets that are being allowed in the Wynberg CBD. “We have received numerous complaints about drug deals and other criminal activities taking place in Main Road and adjacent streets, including outside existing betting outlets,” says chairperson Kristina Davidson.

On Tuesday Wynberg Sector 1 Neighbourhood Watch took the Bulletin on a tour of “dangerous spots” in the area alongside the Main Road. It was like something out of a crime novel.

In Ebor Road, what was Uli Heydt Master Butchers is now home to vagrants, smoke pouring from what was the wholesale butchery. Martin Bilski who has lived in Wynberg and had no idea what is going on there until he joined the neighbourhood watch two years ago, says police raided the butchery where over 100 people were living among faeces and filth. Also in the road is a scrap dealer, which he says is illegal as it is not zoned for this, and what was once a pub called Idles and then became a brothel called Sleep * Go. At the end of the road is Grand Central, a block of flats where he has witnessed drug deals going down at the entrance to the parking levels.

From there we drive past Hollywood Bets. On the pavement at Langley Road, in front of Hollywood Bets, men stood, mostly in pairs. Residents living nearby have shown pictures of people in the Main Road smoking tik lollies, cooking drugs in a spoon and using other drug paraphernalia. “Initially they’d do it under blankets, then under their hoodies, now they are brazen,” said one resident.

In Church Street, close to the magistrate’s court, Wickets Sports Club, also a gambling venue, is quiet during the day but noisy at night where drug deals go down in the alleyway next door.

Driving towards Wynberg traffic precinct Mr Bilski points out a man alleged to be a burglar. Taxis clog narrow roads around the station as informal traders sell goods and railway security guards chat on phones leaning against graffiti-clad walls which becomes a squatter camp at night with tents and fires, knee-deep in filth the following mornings. It is a also a haven for thieves and pickpockets according to Mr Bilski. “The toilets are in a filthy state but what a daunting job to clean here,” he says, sweeping his arm wide.

Returning to his home, he said sex workers regularly ply their trade in front of his driveway and those of his neighbours.

The Bulletin then met with a group of residents and business people in Langley Road. At the heart of their grievances is a neglected block of flats called Langwyn where a group of men sat in front of a derelict garage gambling. Jenny Gallard said maggots wriggle in gutters where wheelie bins overflow because there are too many people living in the block.

And rats are a problem because poison is stolen and used to mix with cocaine to make it go further. Wiring has to be replaced after being eaten by rats.

They have all had condoms filled with drugs or semen thrown over their walls, plus a bag of mandrax and poppers of heroine.

Heather Ryan said she watches drug transactions go down outside her office. “Since Hollywood Bets moved in about five years ago there has been a downward spiral. Now it’s a rough area, dangerous. It used to be clean and quiet, our only problems were homeless people who were harmless,” she says.

They said at 10.45pm each night taxis roars down the road. “Doom doom, I’m here, come and buy, as if it’s a drug shopping route,” said one resident.Ms Ryan has done her homework and contacted the manager of the betting shop but said she got nowhere.

Andrew Shepherd said drug dealing leads to petty crimes, brass hinges from doors and shutters stolen, car indicator bulbs stolen and used to smoke tik.

Hilton September works in a car dealership on the Main Road and said he is on the thick of it. Apart from watching “brazen” gambling, drug deals and use take place he said Thursdays and Fridays are particularly bad as alcohol is added to the mix.

Eitan and Nicole Adams said the short stretch between Tenby and Langley roads is unsafe and unsanitary. They have witnessed many instances of individuals buying drugs from Hollywood Bets patrons, groups drinking hard liquor and engaged in public drug use.

“These conditions are exacerbated by the unrestricted parking area of the [block of] flats, a thriving environment for drug users and dealers to loiter unrestricted. The block was investigated as a problem building, but passed the inspection,” says Mr Adams.

The Bulletin contacted the owner, Arie Zelezniak of a company called Vendomat, by phone and email but he would not respond to questions.

The Bulletin then met with Athol Swanson, manager of the Wynberg Improvement District (WID), at their office in Piers Road. He said Wynberg traffic interchange has 100 000 commuters each day, bringing associated issues of congestion, illegal trading, petty crime and drug dealing, impacting on refuse collection and deliveries.

Brett Herron, the City’s Mayco member for transport and urban development, said the imminent roll-out of Phase 2A of the MyCiTi service has been put on hold because of a legal dispute between the City of Cape Town and residents who live in City-owned houses that were initially marked to make way for the bus route.

Ward councillor Liz Brunette said residents were recently evicted from number 4 Ebor Road, however, there are four other problem buildings there.

Ms Davidson said problems found at these properties include overcrowding, unsafe and unsanitary living conditions, drug dealing, trade in stolen property and prostitution.

Jonathan Katz, managing agent for some of the buildings in Ebor Road said this month they were successful with an eviction at 4 Ebor Road after two years of litigation. “The occupants were very cunning in that they continued to rent out rooms and consume utilities while paying for nothing for two years. Besides the unpaid rental, they have left us with a municipal bill in excess of R414284.00 even though we had requested disconnection many times over the last two years,” says Mr Katz.

“We’re disgusted how attorneys are prepared to abuse our legal system (for a fee) to protect non-citizens of RSA, giving these people rights to remain in occupation of our buildings while not paying for the accommodation or services consumed. For the record we obtained an eviction order in respect of the commercial lease which we had originally signed, then the occupants were re-instated in terms of the PIE Act, then we obtained an eviction order in terms of the PIE Act, then just before the eviction date the occupants appealed against the eviction order and transferred the matter from the magistrate’s court to the high court. Then the high court dismissed their appeal and then they made application to appeal the high court’s decision. When the judges arrived to review their appeal of the high court’s decision they backed down. This litigation process occurred over the afore-said to year period. We also manage 3 Ebor Road, Wynberg, and confirm that no illegal activities are permitted or happening there.”

Tania van Eck, spokesperson for Hollywood Bets, said they have seen drug deals take place on the streets. “However, it does not happen in our branch as we police this very strictly with cameras both inside our shop and outside on the pavements,” she says.

Ms Van Eck said they have regular meetings with the Wynberg police. “Colonel Nel has met with us and requested that camera’s be added, which we did. City of Cape Town Law Enforcement have done several visits and all is in order. We also have regular gambling board visits and inspections and FICA forms part of our compliance requirements,” says Ms Van Eck.

Captain Ntombi Nqunqeka, spokesperson at Wynberg police, said drug-related cases are reported to them and arrests are being made and the sector commander is monitoring all known areas. “Integrated operations with law enforcement, Metro police and Cape Town traffic services are being conducted on a weekly basis so as to monitor these issues,” she says.

Ms Davidson says that although the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Act states that applications for a licence will not be approved if the development is undesirable from “social, religious, educational, cultural, economic, environmental, transport and land-use aspects”, this clause appears to be ignored – “in any case, our objections to the granting of gambling licences have been unsuccessful”.

“We believe that the increase in gambling and liquor outlets can only aggravate the existing drug, alcohol and crime problems in the area,” she says.

Mr Swanson said visible policing is the answer and this was evident during the five hours the Bulletin spent there, with police vehicles seen at Wynberg traffic precinct and in Langley Road.

Wynberg Sector 1 Neighbourhood Watch has been operational for about four years and covers an area with about 2 000 residents of which about 85 are members and only five are active patrollers. To join, visit wynbergwatch.com