Drug den closed down after nine-year battle
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.”