Councillors negotiate removal of Paddadam squatters

Jerry Sibiya and Alta de Kock take a look at a temporary structure put up by a squatter at Paddadam.

‘COMMUNITY engagement’, ‘service delivery’, ‘moving forward’,’ action’ are some of the usual buzzwords that communities come to expect from politicians campaigning prior to an election.

In AbaQulusi, however, they are more than just words… they are self-defining principles that mayor, Jerry Sibiya, and ward 9 councillor, Alta de Kock, seem dedicated to upholding.

Last week, the issue of squatters taking up residence at the Paddadam Park was brought to Cllr de Kock’s attention through a Facebook post in which she was tagged.

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Residents who used the trails at Paddadam for exercise and recreation were concerned about the risk to their safety. Besides the risk of crime, squatters are also at risk of disease due to unhygienic practices and exposure to the elements.

The day after the matter was brought to her attention, Cllr de Kock, Cllr Sibiya and municipal manager, Bonga Ntanzi, led a delegation of police, and public safety officers to negotiate the removal of the squatters. They were accompanied by members of Vryheid Neighbourhood Watch and the Paddadam Committee.

Mayor, Jerry Sibiya, addresses one of the squatters at Paddadam to convince him to return to his family home.

The squatters that were discovered were, indeed, found in squalid conditions surrounded by rubbish, spoiling food stuff and buzzing flies.

“On that day, we were able to negotiate with the squatters to move back to their families. We cannot allow people to just live at the Paddadam Park. There may be a lot of criminals hiding among the rocks who may prey on the vulnerable, especially women and children. I appreciate the assistance of Neighbourhood Watch and the Paddadam Committee, as well as the ward councillor for letting me know so that I could assist and participate in the negotiations. We have offered transport to the squatters to encourage them to move and will be following up to see that it happens,” said Cllr Sibiya.

“We need the public as our eyes and our ears. When there is something wrong they need to inform us. In this way, we will work together so we can improve our ward and make our town a better place. Being proactive is the only way we can change the situation we are in. I appreciate this issue being brought to my attention. I know everything can’t change overnight but we can change things one by one,” concluded Cllr de Kock.

Estella Naicker

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