Media: Police chief warns politicians wanting to visit Blikkiesdorp

24 11 2009

November 23, 2009 Edition 1
Caryn Dolley – Cape Times

Politicians planning to visit Blikkiesdorp, the temporary relocation settlement in Delft, should first let the SAPS know for safety reasons, the area’s police commissioner has warned.

Issuing the warning, Commissioner Basil Vellai said the area was “a housing time-bomb” that threatened to explode and criminals were preying on the impoverished residents of Blikkiesdorp.
He said the thousands of people living “in frustration” in the crime-ridden community were approaching boiling point.

But Mayor Dan Plato, who was slapped by an angry woman when he visited the area last week, says he is “happy” with Blikkiesdorp – to the extent that it may be extended and one or two “similar informal areas” created.

Tomorrow, at least 2 000 people are planning to march to the Cape Town Civic Centre to speak to him about their living conditions.

During his visit, angry residents also swore at Plato after he dismissed their complaints about inhuman conditions, saying the settlement was “among the best”.

Although the wood-and-iron structures provided may be better than shacks, Vellai said Blikkiesdorp was “a housing time-bomb” and plagued by crime.

“Drug merchants from all over are coming into the area,” he said.

“They’re targeting the poor people living there saying, ‘If you stash my drugs (in your home), I’ll pay you’. Or they’re forcing the people out (of the temporary homes).

“There’s housebreaking, clothes are stolen straight off washing lines. Because there are no garages, cars are broken into. Strangers and criminal elements are moving in and benefiting from Blikkiesdorp. Gangsters are capitalising on it.”

At weekends, alcohol and drug abuse became a problem in Blikkiesdorp, and this was when children were often left unattended, Vellai said.

Domestic violence was also common in Blikkiesdorp, and in eight months three murders had been reported there.

Vellai said the area was barren.

“People there are poor and living in frustration. It’s getting to them. When it’s 29 or 30 degrees Celsius outside, those homes are boiling inside.”

People from other other parts of Cape Town were living there, as were people displaced by the xenophobic violence last year. Although issues related to xenophobia had cropped up, they had been sorted out before any violence occurred, Vellai said.

About 1 452 families are staying in Blikkiesdorp. There are 215 more who have yet to be accommodated.

The number of people in Blikkiesdorp was growing, Vellai said.

“It’s like a housing time-bomb. If housing isn’t sorted out, there’ll be big problems.”

Raids were frequently carried out and a patrol van was always in the vicinity.

A neighbourhood watch had been set up, but some of its members had been threatened for giving the police information, Vellai said.

Plato said yesterday there were no service delivery problems in Blikkiesdorp and that he was “happy” with the area.

He said the social problems experienced there were the same as in other areas.

“It’s a case of because council has put (the residents) there, we must be responsible for the social problems.”

Plato said the media were using Blikkiesdorp as “a stick to hit council”.

“The dramatic story, the untold story of Blikkiesdorp, goes unnoticed. When a number of people come up and say ‘Dan Plato, thank you’. When you look at where most of them are coming from, we give them at least something.

“Where were the media when I was knee-deep in water, walking in my suit in Mfuleni?”

People were waiting to move into temporary relocation areas. If people were unhappy in Blikkiesdorp they could “go find something better”.

caryn.dolley@inl.co.za

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