Vagrants taking over

Vagrants taking over vacant areas has once again been raised as a concern among residents, this time at a vacant house on Langalibalele Street.

Residents and businesses near the house have said it has been occupied by more than 10 vagrants for about a year. The house is near an old age home, and levels of anxiety have been high in the city since a serial killer murdered three elderly residents at Kenwyn and Jacaranda homes.

The community suspect the vagrants have been responsible for a spate of minor break-ins and copper cable theft in the area.

A neighbour said: “We heard there was a lady staying at that house who was not paying her [utilities] so she was evicted, and no one took over.

“We are scared. They are at that house all day and are able to monitor our movements, and people walking on the street are easy targets for them.”

The City said it was not aware of this situation, and had not received any complaints related to it.

It said, however, that when it came to situations like this, the City will inspect the site and serve contravention notices. Legal action could be taken for non-compliance.

In a statement, the City advised residents to refer matters like this to the building control unit at 033 392 2082/2163, or the environmental health unit at 033 392 2344.

Dave Ryder, the vice chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg and Districts Council for the Aged (Padca), has said that the vacant plots next to Kenwyn and Jacaranda retirement homes were causing concern.

“Numerous appeals to the municipality ... to rigorously apply the relevant bylaws, has brought little relief,” Ryder said.

The Witness has reported on vagrants taking over abandoned properties and pieces of land before, with at least two large pieces of unkempt land on residential roads in Raisethorpe being taken over by vagrants.

It was also reported last year that the City had plans to house vagrants in a property, but this was roundly criticised since the City itself canned an identical initiative that same year.