Growing concern over vacant land

Clr Jill Humphreys stands next to the palisade fence broken by vagrants to gain access to the land.

The open land along Kirkby Road, in Bedford Gardens, has, once again, come under the spotlight.

The land, which belongs to the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), made headlines in 2014 for housing vagrants and potential criminals.

The NEWS previously reported that women walking to and from work between Bedfordview and Malvern were targeted by vagrants living on the land.

During the recent Bedfordview Community Policing Forum (BCPF) meeting, chairperson Mr Gavin Henry said the state of the land makes it impossible for people to run after perpetrators.

“When someone is robbed and they scream for help, no one can run after a suspect who enters the space as it is too dense,” said Mr Henry.

In April 2015, the department contracted Mr Mike Olifant to cut the grass and replace the missing bars on the palisade fence.

Despite recent heavy rains, no clean up has been done.

The ward 20 councillor, Clr Jill Humphreys, said residents of nearby complexes were worried about a large tree that was recently struck by lightning.

“They are concerned that this tree might fall onto their homes at any time now and yet they don’t get any joy from the powers that be who own the land,” said Clr Humphreys.

Mr Henry said he had engaged with the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD) to conduct raids and enforce bylaws.

The NEWS understands, however, that during one of the visits to the land by law enforcement officers, some of the vagrants refused to leave the site.

“They claimed they would report the officers to the premier if they removed them for the land,” said one of the homeowners, who was present at the time.

The EMPD has said previously that in order to be able to enforce bylaws, the land owners would need to report the trespassing incidents to the authorities.

“We can, from time to time, go in there and remove them, but no case will stand in court unless we have a complainant,” said an officer during a previous BCPF meeting.

Mr Oupa Bodibe, GDE spokesperson, said the department is currently working on appointing a contractor who will clean up the land.

“The contractor should be on site soon to start,” he said.

Asked whether the contractor would be responsible for regular cleaning and maintenance, Mr Bodibe said as the need arises, the department would appoint another contractor to clean up.

Duenna Mambana

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