By LIZAHN WENTZEL
Squatters in the derelict Boston Centre were given their marching orders this week by a court-backed eviction order.
The Red Ants moved on the building on Tuesday morning. They were joined by Bellville police and law enforcement as well as officials from the City and the Department of Social Development.
Bellville police spokeswoman, Warrant Officer Henrietta van Niekerk, said the atmosphere was “calm” as the squatters had been notified well in advance and had cooperated with the police after being given a chance to take all their belongings out themselves.
The building, which is on the corner of Voortrekker Road and Boston Street, will now be boarded up to stop anyone else moving in.
It once housed the Department of Home Affairs but was declared a problem building in November last year.
The electricity had been cut off two months earlier and the water was cut off in December. But that did not stop people, some with children, living there.
Northern News accompanied Bellville police during a raid earlier this year, when they checked for undocumented people living there (“Cops raid problem building,” Northern News, April 27). Several people had been living in the 10-storey building at the time. The passages were filled with dirt, and the smell of urine and faeces made it hard to breathe.
Sub-council 6 and the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID) welcomed the eviction, saying it would help to improve the area.
Sub-council 6 chairwoman Rose Rau said conditions at the building had continued to deteriorate –- making it unsafe for anyone to live there.
“The building is privately owned by a number of sectional-title owners who have unfortunately allowed the condition of the building to become so bad that the City had declared it a problem building.”
She said Sub-council 6 had been “very concerned” about the occupants’ safety.
In a previous sub-council meeting, Ms Rau said the building administrator had promised to board up the premises and stop anyone else moving in.
“I trust that this eviction will send a message to other landlords and invading tenants that we will not allow them to keep us in the space of urban decay,” said Ms Rau.
Eviction notices were served on the squatters at the beginning of August, but the eviction was rescheduled because of rain.
VRCID chief operations officer Derek Bock said the building needed to be redeveloped by a buyer who would not simply be another slumlord.
“Those living in the building have basically hijacked the building and there is no place for this in our efforts to clean Bellville up in terms of crime and grime. We applaud the City in its efforts in this regard,” he said.
Northern News previously spoke to one of the occupants, who had been staying in one of the two-bedroom flats with her boyfriend and two other couples.
She told how people would often urinate in a bottle and throw it out the window. Asked if she paid rent, she said: “Everyone knows you don’t pay rent here.”
Ms Rau said she had made appointments with other property owners and landlords to show the sub-council’s commitment to tackling problem buildings in the area.
Siyabulela Mamkeli,mayoral committee member for area central, said the City’s problem building unit was dealing with 100 properties in the Bellville area that were at different stages of investigation. He said there had been a few successes with problem buildings in the area where the owners had resolved the issues and these cases had been closed by the unit.