Woodlands NPO says squatters are a hazard

A Woodlands non-profit organisation says it is costing them thousands of rands to secure their property because of squatters who live in the neighbouring park.

This follows three fires on the Mitchell Avenue field, behind their centre, within the last month.

Yolanda Pascoe, programme manager for the F.R.O.G (Fully Reliant On God) Centre, said parents had to fetch their children from their crèche, in Woodlands, on Tuesday January 16, after a shack was burnt to the ground in a fire, causing thick smoke.

“We couldn’t breathe and then the next day there was another fire but it was a bit more controlled,” she said.

There was another fire in early December just before they saw that vibecrete slabs from their wall had been stolen.

“We then had to build a wall and secure our property. It is endangering our children and we need to secure their safety,” she said.

Their electric fence was fixed last Tuesday and hours later is was damaged.

Ms Pascoe said they have spent up to R100 000 fixing the property and securing it in recent weeks.

She said they had reached out to the squatters but that they can only do so much.

“They dump here. They steal. They burn tyres. Our children can’t play in our park and the neighbouring children can’t play in the public park because it is unpleasant,” she said.

Ms Pascoe would like the City of Cape Town to repurpose the space to prevent squatters from returning.

Owners of the shack Walied Spochter and Aneeka Diedericks said they were not home when the fire broke out on Tuesday.

“I went to my mommy and he wasn’t here,” she said.

They have been squatting for up to five years.

According to Ms Diedericks, they had been served with a court order by the City to be removed on Wednesday January 3, 2024 (“‘They must be removed’”, Plainsman December 6, 2023).

Last month 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.

Formal dwelling neighbours did not want to speak to the Plainsman fearing for their safety.