Drug den closed down af­ter nine-year bat­tle

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court re­jected the ap­peal to over­turn the Western Cape High Court’s Septem­ber 8 de­ci­sion to evict the home’s oc­cu­pants.

It found the city’s claims that Blanken­berg had breached the lease agree­ment by con­duct­ing il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties were valid. He had been leas­ing the prop­erty since 1992.

But when city of­fi­cials ar­rived at the va­cant premises yes­ter­day, they found it had been trashed. Dirt was strewn around the house and al­co­hol box trays stashed in a cor­ner, a re­minder it had also been a well- known she­been. Il­le­gal struc­tures and ex­ten­sions had been built with­out the city’s per­mis­sion, in con­tra­ven­tion of the Na­tional Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions and Build­ing Stan­dards Act.

The mayoral com­mit­tee mem­ber for safety and se­cu­rity, JP Smith, said a charge of ma­li­cious dam­age to prop­erty would be laid against Blanken­berg.

“He needs to be ar­rested and held ac­count­able for van­dal­is­ing the place,” Smith said.

Con­trac­tors were due to start re­pairs later yes­ter­day. Sev­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cers would be sta­tioned at the house to pro­vide a 24-hour pres­ence to pre­vent il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion or fur­ther dam­age.

“It’s been a painstak­ing process and very late vic­tory for the city to fi­nally shut down an icon for law­less­ness, as well as gang­ster­ism,” said Smith, adding the oc­cu­pants had clearly been run­ning a “highly lu­cra­tive” es­tab­lish­ment, shown by their abil­ity to af­ford to ex­haust all le­gal av­enues in their bat­tle to stop the evic­tion or­der.

“You must know how deep­pock­eted he (‘Mr Big’) must have been to take it to the Con­court.”

Ini­tial plans to de­mol­ish the build­ing were aban­doned, and it will in­stead be oc­cu­pied by the city’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit and other spe­cialised task forces.

“It will now be a place where law and or­der lives, and where the com­mu­nity can come for help,” said Smith.

Last month, three evic­tions were con­ducted in Ma­nen­berg. Smith said one of the oc­cu­pants had lost a court ap­peal lodged in 2006. While they were see­ing a “steady stream” of evic­tions, Smith said the process re­mained “painfully” slow.

He cited po­lit­i­cal wran­gling as a re­sult of prob­lems left by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, crim­i­nal le­gal pro­ceed­ings against gang mem­bers, and a lack of sup­port by cer­tain po­lice sta­tions as rea­sons.

About 400 prop­er­ties were still to be tar­geted by the An­tiLand Invasion Unit.

While in­spect­ing the Bel­har premises, po­lice es­corted two peo­ple from the prop­erty af­ter they were found liv­ing in a sep­a­rate struc­ture be­hind the house.

A smaller two-roomed out­build­ing seemed to have been fit­ted with sound­proof­ing. At­tempts had been made to re­move it, but what is be­lieved to be acous­tic foam was still vis­i­ble along the walls. The rooms were sep­a­rated by a oneway glass par­ti­tion.

Com­mu­nity Safety MEC Dan Plato said it looked as though “a highly so­phis­ti­cated op­er­a­tion” had been run from the room.

One of the res­i­dents liv­ing in Free­dom Park, an in­for­mal set­tle­ment next to the prop­erty, de­clined to be named, but said she was “so glad” the pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pants had moved.

“I cleaned for them once, but they were stingy. When my hus­band helped put up wendy houses there they re­fused to pay him.”

ja­nis.kin­n­ear@inl.co.za

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