Hawkers at Lentegeur station, which is plagued by crime, drug abuse, unsanitary conditions and vagrancy, say they are desperate for the conditions in the area to be improved.
And those living there illegally say they have nowhere else to go.
Ward 76 councillor, Goawa Timm, in whose ward the station is located, said she had spoken with the people living at the station on a number of occasions.
“I have been to the people under the staircase several times, telling them that they cannot live here with their children,” she said.
“This issue is in the heart of my ward and my hands are tied. The train station belongs to PRASA (the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa). All I have asked of them is to see to the maintenance of the place as well as installing fencing around the station that will help with land invaders and crime.”
Ms Timm was also concerned that there was no wheelchair access to the station and that despite being invited, Prasa did not send representatives to sub-council meetings.
Among those living at the station is Orachius Marinus, 30, who dropped out of school in Grade 10, has four children and is unemployed.
“I did not have a place to stay. I lost my job and had to skarrel for money. I don’t have an ID, as I have lost it during my stay here.“
“I have four children aged 1, 3, 5 and 11 but most of them stay at my wife’s mother’s place,” he said.
“If we could be provided with a shelter that would help us, as it rains into the houses we’ve built. Law enforcement comes here regularly to take away our things.”
Another squatter, Brandon Britz, 31, said: “I was dating a girl. I got caught up in the wrong things and got sent to prison. I now have a criminal record.
“It is easier to stay here but out in the real world I can’t get a job that I really need.
“I am more focused on my children. The problem now is to take care of my children even though they don’t stay with me. I cannot find a job.”
Those living at the station do not have access to functioning ablution facilities or electricity.
“We have a relationship with the hawkers which makes things a bit easier. I have the biggest hokkie here. I would rather stay on the street than stay in a home,” Mr Britz told the Plainsman.
Deon Cloete, 36, has been living at the station for eight years. “I have two children, 2 and 5. My parents passed away and my sister and I could not afford to pay the mortgage on the house and got kicked out.
“I need to make money by being in the parking lot and assist with the parking. I use to do maintenance things like painting and plumbing. If I am lucky, I will get a job from the people I help with parking.
“It does not feel nice to live here and not make money. A child wants nice things. When they see what their friends have they also want it and it’s not nice to say you can’t afford it.”
Deon finished his matric in 2000 and thereafter enrolled in a travel and tourism course at the then Cape Tech, now known as Cape Peninsula University of Technology(CPUT). But he failed his computer studies module and didn’t have the R1 300 required to continue his studies, so was forced to drop out.
Nicolette Barns, 47, a hawker at the Lentegeur station, said: “I have been selling my goods for 21 years at this station. Here are many things affecting me such as fires, drug abuse and the condition of the environment I have to sell my goods in.
“There are hardly any Metrorail staff around. They are afraid to open the windows for people to buy tickets. The staff are afraid for their safety as well.
“The path to the staircase does not have proper lighting and there is only one entrance to the train station. The people are also hiding behind the staircase (waiting) to rob the people.”
Of the informal dwellings at the station, she added: “What started out as three shacks has now increased to several shacks.”
Community activist Ruwayda Edwards said at a meeting held on Friday August 17, the concerns about the station had been raised. “This has been an issue since 1986 and it has still not been fixed. Prasa has never come to the site nor set up a plan to thoroughly fix the station.”
When the Plainsman contacted Prasa for comment, they said they would send a representative to the station to assess the situation. Only after such an assessment was done, they said, would they be able to respond to our questions.
Funyanwa Gade, Metrorail’s area manager for Lentegeur station, said in addition to the homeless people living at the station, gangsters also posed a problem there.
“Allegedly gangsters are also involved at the station, living there and doing drugs. The area is monitored by the police but they are not there all the time. Myself and Ms Timm have made sure that the young children staying at the station are dealt with by social services and law enforcement as it is not a good environment for children.”