THE makeshift homes and odd hodgepodge of meagre possessions belonging to the squatters at Paddadam Park went up in flames last Wednesday.
DA councillor, Alta de Kock, first engaged with the squatters about a month ago when residents complained on social media about not feeling safe when visiting the popular recreational facility.
Calling on mayor, Jerry Sibiya, municipal manager, Bonga Ntanzi, public safety officials, Vryheid SAPS and the Neighbourhood Watch for assistance, Cllr de Kock visited the squatters to ask them to return to their actual homes, offering them transport, food and blankets in return for their co-operation.
A follow-up visit last week revealed that, while some of the squatters had left Paddadam Park as agreed upon, others remained right where they were.
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Swarms of flies buzzed relentlessly around the heaps of rubbish where the squatters sleep under sheets of plastic held up by tree branches and sticks. With absolutely no access to sanitation or fresh water, these unhygienic conditions posed a health risk to the squatters themselves who chose to live in spots that would be inaccessible to emergency vehicles, should one of them need assistance.
Staff from the Extended Public Works Program (EPWP) were called upon to pick up some of the rubbish, while Cllr de Kock set flame to whatever was left.
“A lot of people are asking where the squatters ended up,” said Cllr de Kock. “I just want to reassure everyone that they were moved back to their families and they were given new blankets and fresh food to ensure that they were well received when they returned home.”
“I would like to encourage the community to keep their eyes open when they are embarking on a trail run or walk at the Paddadam Park and to let us know if there are any new activities. I would also like to thank the Buurtwag, Public Safety officials, and Vryheid SAPS for helping me, as well as the mayor for his support.”