At around 2am Eastridge resident Petro Alie wakes up to the sound of gunshots, guns being cocked and aggressive shouting coming from a lane next to her home in Knobwood Street, Greenhill Village.
About every third month the Alies have to replace their windows, and to protect their family, they’ve had to build two walls around their house as the bullets often penetrate their exterior walls. The mother of four fears for her and her family’s lives as gangsters and drug dealers operate from the lane every day.
Ms Alie is one of many residents who are calling for lane closures in the area, especially the lane in Knobwood Street which borders AZ Berman Drive.
“I have had enough. The lane is dangerous,” she said. “We have been put through so much hell with the open lane. So many things occur in this lane – drug dealing, robberies and it is a hiding place for gangsters when they start shooting.
“For 15 years we’ve had to replace windows like it is clothing. Because of the open lane, we’ve had 10 break-ins in 15 years. I have made contact with the City of Cape Town to have it closed. My husband and I were even willing to buy the lane in 1999,” she said.
Ms Alie said the lane is also a health risk to her family as people dump dead dogs, cats, rubbish and rubble, there illegally.
“I have six fly catchers in my house, because every day there is a swarm of flies that comes into my house because of the dirt. It’s disgusting to see dead, worm-infested animals next to your house. It then smells and makes us sick,” she said.
Liezl Volkwyn said the lane is unsafe and very dangerous, especially at night and in the morning. Ms Volkwyn’s boyfriend Aubrey Phillips was shot dead in the lane in August last year.
“How many times do we have to ask the ward councillor, Solomon Philander, to close the lane? Ms Alie has been at their offices but we are not receiving assistance. Why must our people live in fear? We have identified the problem and all we’re asking is the assistance of the City of Cape Town to help close the lanes in our area,” she said.
An angry Thelma Simons said thieves are using the lane as an escape route crossing AZ Berman Drive.
“The thieves will rob residents and run through the lane, once they’re through the lane they cannot be found. Three weeks ago my son was robbed at knife-point and the guy ran through the lane,” she said.
Another resident Cecil Miller said this area is a hot spot and residents are willing to do whatever is necessary to have it closed.
“We want this lane closed! It is a hot spot, we know this because we wake up hearing gunshots, we see how residents are being mugged and how their homes are being broken into. We are asking Mr Philander to take our plea seriously,” he said.
The residents of Eastridge have asked community worker and Agents for Change chairperson, April Engelbrecht, to help them with the process as they were allegedly not receiving feedback from the City of Cape Town.
Mr Engelbrecht sent emails to ward councillors Eddie Andrews and Solomon Philander regarding the lane closures.
“I live in Tafelsig and my office is in Eastridge, which is 50 metres away from another problem lane in Zebra Crescent. Then regarding the other lanes, Knobwood, Klipspringer, Ratel Close and Rooikat, residents are appealing to the City of Cape Town to close it as it contribute to crime.
“Residents of Ratel Close have even closed their lane with a garden because they have had enough. I have been sending emails to the councillors and have received no feedback regarding the procedure or action they will take,” Mr Engelbrecht said.
However, Mr Philander said Mr Engelbrecht has never approached him about a lane. “He does not reside in Ward 79 nor lives in the street where the lane is referred to (Knobwood). I had communication with the property owners adjacent to the lane and gave them the necessary papers to apply for lane closures.
“In addition to this, I have advised the the street committee who approached me, including the soccer team in the area, on the process to follow to get the lane closed. No application has been received,” Mr Philander said. He accused Mr Engelbrecht of having a political agenda. “But if he comes speak to me I will inform him on the process to close a lane,” he said.
Mitchell’s Plain police station commander, Brigadier Cass Goolam, said Eastridge residents need to inculcate a culture of activism – of being victors instead of being victims of circumstances which are under their control.
“There are sections of Eastridge where residents are truly active and the shift of crime can be seen (compared) to the non-active areas. This is where there is no community-based structures such as street committees and neighbourhood watches.
“I also want to encourage existing community structures to be mature and acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and refrain from this irritating bickering which weakens the impact on crime,” he said.
Brigadier Goolam said the issue of opening or closure of lanes pertains to environmental design of which the residents must take ownership.
“Lanes are a contributing factor in the sense that the communities are not taking ownership of their environment. Some would rather resort to nagging at meetings ,expecting somebody else to resolve their issues, instead of being part of the solution.
“In Portland, lanes were not closed only by the City. The City came on board when the residents were already in the process of closing lanes and some were already closed. Yes, the involvement of the community did result in a drastic reduction of crime in the community.”
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport in the City of Cape Town, said the lane referred to (Knobwood) is zoned residential (erf 34071) and belongs to the City of Cape Town.
“This lane has been used as a thoroughfare for many years. It forms part of the local non-motorised transport route, meaning it is being used by pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.
He said the City must follow due process for any lane closures. He said residents must apply for lane closures through their local sub-council.
Mr Herron said it is a lengthy process and requires the direct involvement of the local community and sub-council.
He said the administrative process can take at least up to four months, depending on whether objections to the proposed lane closure are received.
Commenting on whether the property in question can be bought by the residents, Mr Herron said it can only be bought if the land belongs to the City. An administrative process managed by the City’s property management department must be followed, which is inclusive of an advertisement, subject to any lease agreement in place.
Lane Closure procedure
(Blob) Residents must apply for lane closures through their local sub-council
(Blob) The sub-council will bring these requests to the attention of Transport for Cape Town (TCT), the City’s transport authority
(Blob) TCT, together with the South African Police Service, Law Enforcement and Metro police will subsequently undertake an investigation into any complaints raised
(Blob) TCT must take into consideration the use of the lane by pedestrians and cyclists and other road users
(Blob) If these complaints are found to be warranted, a public participation process must be followed whereby the local community is offered the opportunity to comment on the proposed lane closure(s)
(Blob) Once the public participation process has been concluded, a report recommending the lane closure(s) will be presented to the City’s mayoral committee (Mayco).
(Blob) Should Mayco approve the recommendation, the report will serve before full council for final approval. Only then the closures can take effect.