Beach squatters threaten tourism, says civic

A man who only gave his name as Ambrose scans the ocean from his shelter on Bloubergstrand.

Residents are fuming over squatters who have set up makeshift shelters on Bloubergstrand.

The group of about 10 people has been living on dunes next to a public toilet for more than two months, according to the City.

The squatters say that living on the beach is better than some of the other spots they have been, even during winter.

Tabletalk visited the camp on Otto du Plessis Drive after authorities raided it on Saturday morning June 11 and following residents’ complaints on social media.

The squatters said 10 more people were living down the road, but we couldn’t find them.

Greater Table View Action Forum chairwoman Karen Davis said they were against the squatters occupying the site.

Ward councillor Nicky Rheeder did not respond to questions by deadline.

In a statement, the City confirmed that law enforcement officers had conducted patrols in the area at the weekend and issued three fines to people who had moved into the public toilet at the beach more than two months ago.

“Officers found two structures and a tent, as well as three adult males and five minors. The minors were advised to return to Atlantis, where they reside,” the City said.

One of the squatters, who only identified himself as “Whitey”, said they had to put up with “classist” residents, aggressive City law enforcement officers and gangsters who robbed them.

However, Whitey said living on the beach “is nicer than anywhere else I’ve ever lived”.

He said he had been eking out a living on the streets since 2019 when he lost his job as a security guard in Worcester. He had moved to Sea Point but had found residents there “less welcoming” than some of those in Bloubergstrand.

A man who only gave his name Ambrose said he had become homeless after serving an eight-year jail term for armed robbery.

He said gang violence had flared up in Atlantis, where he is from, and he wanted to be somewhere peaceful to avoid relapsing into a life of crime.

Ambrose said the law enforcement officers who had fined them had told them to tidy up and have fewer “eyesore” materials on their shelters.

“Sometimes it’s cold here, but it’s all right,” he said, adding that while the City law enforcement officers were aggressive, residents were friendly and often donated food and clothes.

His neighbour said living so close to the sea was not without its problems, especially at high tide. “What can we do? The water does come up, and we have to run or go somewhere else.”

She said the only inconvenience their presence might cause was the sound of the children running up and down the dunes. “We do try to contain them, but children are children,” the woman said.

She accused the law enforcement officers of being rude and aggressive. “My only problem with them is they don’t know how to speak properly and address us. They’re aggressive and speak as though they’re not speaking to humans. They swear at us.”

However, the City denied those allegations.

Another squatter, who works as a car guard and did not want to give his name, said he had been issued more than R5 000 in fines since 2019.

“Nothing has happened. I have not been in court. I don’t know why they still write me these letters because I don’t pay them. I don’t have the money,” he said.

Ms Davis said the squatters’ presence on the beach had a ripple effect on crime and grime and it hurt tourism and discouraged the public from wanting to go to the beach.

“Our beaches are a major tourist attraction that brings in much-needed revenue into our economy, and I am positive that tourists will stay away because of this,” Ms Davis said.

Ratepayers were tired of hearing the excuse that the City’s “hands are tied”.

While the squatters said they had lived on the spot on and off, Ms Davis said they had occupied the beach since the start of the state of disaster.

Ambrose chats to his neighbour on the dunes.