Squatters living in the Milnerton Beach parking lot are threatening beachgoers and residents, selling drugs from their makeshift shacks and tents, and leaving the area in a mess, say residents.
People are staying away from the beach because they fear leaving their cars unattended, and the squatters harass them for money, says Woodbridge Island resident Rosmarie Camara.
The squatters have been living in the dunes on the beach for years, she says, but they moved to the parking lot after the country went into lockdown in March last year.
Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said squatters and illegal occupants could not be removed during the state of disaster declared by the national government.
Ms Camara the settlement had started with four squatters but the numbers were growing daily.
There are now six tents and three shacks, made out of cardboard and wooden offcuts, in the parking lot.
While the squatters knew they could not be removed from the area, the City failed to keep the area clean, causing it to become an eyesore, Ms Camara said.
She claimed the squatters were selling and using drugs in the open. “They bury their drugs in the sand,” she said, adding that they also threw their blankets over lines on the pavement and relieved themselves behind trees.
“While we wait for lockdown levels to go away, we need the area kept clean and police to patrol the area, bringing in sniffer dogs and confiscating drugs sold by these people.”
Bouwe van der Eems, the vice chairman of the Milnerton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said they were putting pressure on the ward councillor to have the area cleaned regularly.
The growing number of squatters was discouraging residents from paying their rates because nothing was being done to stop more squatters coming into many areas of Milnerton, he said.
The City claimed it couldn’t remove the squatters, but it should be able to stop more joining those already there, he said.
“Vagrants seem to have more rights than rate-paying residents,” he said.
Milnerton Canoe Club chairman Richard Allen said their members, who are aged 7 to 80, feared going near the area because the squatters became aggressive if they were refused money.
The squatters had threatened the club’s management who had had to call the police for help when the club’s members arrived, he said.
“They are not peaceful squatters and the members of the canoe club don’t feel safe,” said Mr Allen.
Milnerton police spokeswoman Captain Nopaya Madyibi said police were doing regular patrols in the area and were aware of the drug-usage complaints, but no arrests had been made.
When Tabletalk visited the area on Saturday, an elderly woman sitting on a camping chair said the squatters were getting food from a soup kitchen at a church in Milnerton.
She would not agree to speak to us or be photographed.
Ward 55 councillor Fabian Ah-Sing said law enforcement and the City’s displaced people’s unit had been to the area several times. The area would be cleaned only to return to its messy state the next day, he said.
“We are not permitted to remove the structures and this cannot be entertained.”
He said he had asked the City to clean up the area again and law enforcement to patrol there.
“Law enforcement will do what they can to make sure laws are not broken,” he said.
Mr Badroodien said the situation was aggravated by handouts from residents with good intentions. The public should rather help street people by making donations directly to registered organisations, he said.
“From a social development perspective, we are doing everything possible to assist as many people on the street as possible, working closely with a number of other government agencies and non-governmental organisations,” he said.