The Opportunity to Serve Ministers, F.R.O.G (Fully Reliant On God) Centre, in Woodlands, is concerned about a group of squatters on the Mitchell Avenue field, behind their centre, and want them gone.
The squatters, on their side, told the Plainsman that they are in need of social services even though they’ve been served with a court order to vacate the premises by next month.
“They must be removed,” said Pastor John Pascoe, director of the Opportunity to Serve Ministers, F.R.O.G (Fully Reliant On God) Centre, after numerous squatters made a temporary home on the field.
Mr Pascoe said this matter has been ongoing for almost a year and the squatters have still not been removed.
The whole wall is at a point of collapsing. “If the wall falls down, it exposes the centre,” he said.
“I spoke to them many times. Told them I don’t have a problem but the damage they caused our building, and the armed response having to come out at night costs money, it’s an inconvenience. All our vibracrete slabs of the wall were stolen as well as the electric fencing, which cost us money having to repair it every time. We’re an NPO and we don’t have that kind of money to waste,” he said.
Mr Pascoe said on four occasions burning shacks on the field had almost set their building alight. They’ve vandalised the centre and broke in through the roof and ceiling, he said.
Shawn Hull, who works at the centre, said smoke from open fires makes its way into the building. The educare couldn’t make use of the rooms out of fear of smoke inhalation, he said.
“We’ve experienced the squatters throwing clothes and stones over the wall, at times when the children are playing in the park. This is not right,” said Mr Hull.
“I’m frustrated about this and the City hasn’t been much help. They may target us if we’re to engage. The City must check. It’s not my property, it’s their concern. I’m worried about the holidays. What’s going to happen?” said Mr Pascoe.
The squatters spoke to the Plainsman on Tuesday December 5 at the site and said they want to “humbly apologise for the damage they’ve caused” even though it was out of their control.
Aneeka Diedericks, 34, came from Lentegeur with her husband, sister and her sister’s family to live on the field in Mitchell Avenue.
Initially all of them were living in a room at their late friend’s home, adjacent to the field, but the friend had passed away in a car accident in 2020.
“We’re the first people to move to the field. We’ve been living on the field for close to five years. My husband and I started sleeping behind the tree and eventually we put up a small shack. Once we stayed here, some of them followed and we increased. We’re about 15 people living here,” she said.
“We’re not planning on staying here forever (only) until we find a suitable place,” she said.
“We’re not burning fires but our place accidentally burned down on three occasions. We want to apologise to the community and the F.R.O.G.centre. We tried to avoid that. The cat bumped over the candle that fell on the couch and things caught alight. It happened so fast,” she said.
The Department of Social Development has visited them, promising to assist with rehabilitation and shelter care, but only returning on one occasion, she said.
Her sister, Chantell Diedericks, 41, moved to the site with her two daughters.
“When Law Enforcement came here they issued a fine of R1600 for hanging my washing and making a closed fire for food. We’re unemployed, we can’t afford to pay that,” she said.
“If you come from the streets, you don’t need to look like the streets. We also want to have clean clothes. Everyone else can hang their things. We’re scared to ask for water as we have to pay for it. The community hall didn’t give us water and encouraged us to ask the council. Aren’t they supposed to help the community?” she said.
According to Ms Diedericks, they’ve been served with a court order by the City to be removed on Wednesday January 3, 2024.
“We’re looking for another place but we’re unemployed. We’re not prepared to go to the shelter as there’s no assurance we won’t end up on the street again,” said Ms Diedericks.
Lentegeur SAPS spokesperson Felicia Adams confirmed that no complaints about the squatters have been registered with Lentegeur SAPS.
Ward 75 councillor Joan Woodman said they are frequently addressing this matter and seeking assistance to have them removed from the park. “We are governed by policies and have to act thereby.”
Wayne Dyason, spokesperson for Law Enforcement, said the City’s Law Enforcement officers attended to the location on Tuesday November 21 and found nine shacks and 16 people on the site.
Fines were issued for making fires and hanging washing in a public place, amongst others. The matter was referred to the Displaced Persons Unit who will engage the group further, he said.