Vagrants can’t be moved for now, says City

A fire broke out last Wednesday morning at Democracy Park for the sixth time this year, residents say.

Phoenix residents say there have been a number of fires that were deliberately started at a nearby park and some of these fires have caused damage to their properties.

A few weeks ago, Ward 4 councillor, Wandisile Ngeyi said a fire at Democracy Park may have been a result of arson, but that there wasn’t any evidence, just rumours from local residents.

That fire damaged the boundary wall separating the park and houses on Atlas Road, Phoenix. At the time, residents and homeowners in Phoenix said that there had been four previous fires at that park since January 11.

Residents say they have been calling for the removal of the vagrants at the park but their requests fall on deaf ears.

Graham Lakay, of Phoenix, says he and other residents plan to drill the councillor for answers at a meeting that has been scheduled for Thursday April 29 at the Milnerton municipal offices.

“On Wednesday (April 21) we had another fire in the area. The smoke was overwhelming in the area. We as residents want to know why the City lets the vagrants settle in on the land again even after there has been a fire. We’d like to know why it is so difficult to have these vagrants removed. Are they immovable by law?” said Mr Lakay.

A fire earlier this month damaged the boundary wall at the park and residents nearby say that one day, the fires will become deadly.

The City’s fire and rescue services spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said they had received a call at 7.43am last Wednesday informing them about the fire.

“It was a pile of rubbish that was burning and the fire was extinguished at 8.19am and no injuries were reported. As to the cause, we can only suspect that it was deliberately set alight,” he said.

Responding to Mr Lakay’s concerns, Law Enforcement spokesperson, Wayne Dyason said that as a result of the national lockdown and ongoing court cases, the City is restricted in its enforcement of certain areas of the by-law.

“The City cannot remove or demolish any occupied structures (including tents) without an eviction order. Evictions are currently not permitted under national lockdown. The only time the City can act to enforce its by-laws is when a structure is unoccupied or semi-built,” he said.

Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayco member for community services and health said that Democracy Park was initially developed as a community park to meet the needs for a recreational space for the Joe Slovo community.

“It was managed by the Recreation and Parks Department. However, in July 2020 when illegal occupants moved on to the site, removing park equipment and establishing housing structures, the site was handed over to Law Enforcement.

“The site is currently earmarked for development of economic activities. At this stage, the Recreation and Parks Department does not envision rehabilitating it into a park,” he said.