Burnt-out houses become magnet for criminal activities

48 Oakhill Avenue in Berea was gutted by fire earlier this year and has been empty since. The owner says he will demolish the house.
Image: Tyler Ridden

A house which has stood abandoned in Southernwood for six years is again frustrating residents who claim the property is being used as both a dumping site and by squatters.

The Dispatch visited No 8 St Patrick’s Road. The old white-and -green building has no roof or windows. Trees grow through where the roof once was. The floor has returned to being trash-covered grass. Paint is peeling off the interior walls. At the back there are two-metre high piles of building rubble.

Adri Havenga, who works next door, said the house had burnt down twice – first when it was rented to students who couldn’t afford to pay the power bill and used candles. One fell over and set the house on fire.

A while later the front of the house, which was by then being used as a tuck shop, also burnt down.

Havenga said a number of squatters moved in. Schoolchildren would hide out in the back of the property and drink.

Criminals used the piles of rubble as a springboard into neighbouring properties.

BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said: “We would serve notices to the home owners to rectify the situation, and if no action was taken by the owner within the stipulated time we handed them over to our legal department.”

BCM knew about the troublesome Southernwood house and had “served the rightful home owner with a notice”.

Ngewnya said homeowners were responsible for maintaining their homes to certain standards. Houses should be “structurally sound, healthy and aesthetically pleasing”.

In 2015 the Daily Dispatch reported that the house, by that stage a burned out ruin for a number of years, was being used by prostitutes and their clients, the homeless and drug merchants.

Another house, No 48 Oakhill Avenue in Berea, also stands empty after being gutted by a fire. The Dispatch visited the double story house.

Ashes and beams lie strewn across the floor. A chunk of roof is gone and windows are smashed.

The home’s owner, Siviwe Sowazi, inherited the property when his father died last year. He planned to demolish the house and start anew.

Sowazi said that the house was being rented out before the blaze. He had to ask the previous tenants to leave to make way for new tenants and in the interim, while it was empty, he says it was torched.

Speaking from Johannesburg, Sowazi said that insurance had refused to pay. He suspected squatters had moved in.

Kerry Nieuwenhuis, a King William’s Town resident, said that a house in Louisa Street which was once a business is now abandoned and being ripped to pieces on a daily basis by vagrants.

She also claimed that a contingent of prostitutes were working out of the house and were a source of constant police visits. She said that a petition had been signed but nothing ever came of it.

Ngwenya said: “We have quite a number of such houses and we are taking the necessary steps in resolving this matter. We must add that, at times it becomes difficult to trace people.

“We encourage home owners not to abandon houses without telling the municipality,”.

Residents can report abandoned houses to the municipal hotline on 043-70-1749 or on 086-111-3017.

By: Tyler Ridden

– DispatchLIVE

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