Agencies struggle to deal with street children, Forum hears
SOCIAL workers and
street-child experts at a recent Ward 57 (Woodstock above Main Road, Obs,
Mowbray and Rosebank) Social Issues Forum meeting had a long discussion of how
to overcome hitches in the system that fail to keep children off the streets.
Improvement District field officer for the homeless, Kenneth Roman, criticised
the lack of response from the Department of Social Development (DSD), ACVV, a
non-profit organisation that deals with social issues, as well as the City's
social development department. He also had a problem with the processes that
had to be followed in reporting and protecting a street child, which were
confusing and difficult.
Roman said that cases have
been reported numerous times, but with little response.
Paul Hooper, a leading
child-homelessness practitioner, said that a record must be kept of all the
parties that have been contacted. He also advised that street children had to
be reported on a „Form 22“, a form to report child neglect. The form has to be
filled out by a social worker and taken to the police. The police must also be
notified immediately, and they must ensure the safety of the child until a
social worker is called in.
"If you can see that
the child is in danger, the police have to respond," said Paul.
"Children that are new on the street must be reported, and children that
have been on the street for longer must be reported at least once a
He added that social
workers have a legal obligation to report a child on the street.
Another concern was that,
if children are originally from another area, the social worker from that area
has to be contacted and brought out to deal with the children in the area in
which they currently beg. Social workers, especially from impoverished areas,
are often overworked, or they don't have vehicles to come out to Observatory to
The coordinator for Western Cape
Street Childrens Forum (WCSCF), Janice Sparg, agreed that there is a hitch in
the system that requires social workers to come out when they are needed. This
is why it is important to keep a record of all the contact you have made,
including copies of Form 22, said Sparg.
Hooper added that
these issues should be reported to DSD, who should be held accountable.
The City's Social Development
department is not mandated to deal with street children, but they do referrals
to the correct authorities.
Sparg suggested that all the role
players come together to understand their role in the fight to get children off
the street. "The police care, but don't always understand what they should
do in these situations," said Sparg.
Two problem buildings investigated in Obs
Of the 844 derelict
buildings in Cape Town to date, four has been flagged in Observatory by the
City's problem-building unit, but only two of them seem to be seen as real
The City's problem-building
unit (CPU) enforces the problem-building by-law, implemented in 2010, which
identifies, controls and manages problem buildings. The CPU responds to
complaints and penalises the owners of
derelict buildings for non-compliance in terms of the problem-building by-law.
25 Campbell street, 10 Baker street, The Trump Towers in Lower Main Road, 81
Wrensch Road, are currently on the City's list. The following two buildings are
currently being investigated.
- 25 Campbell Street has
been problematic for residents for several years. The CPU responded to complaints of
overcrowding and illegal building. On inspection, they found that rooms were
being subdivided. he house has more rooms built on the stoep up till the street
boundary. A notice has been served to the executor of
the estate as the owner, Mrs Bertha Schroeder, has passed away. The executor,
Quinton William Schroeder, who is allegedly blind, had been served with a
criminal summons that was read out to him. The City said they are
"currently persuing High Court action against the owner".
- 10 Baker Street is
currently being dealt with by the CPU. The owners have been issued with the
second notice of the process, the compliance notice, which means that they are
currently in the compliance period and will be monitored to ensure that they
remedy the building.
A further two properties
are also on the list, but the complaints against them seem to have been solved:
- The Trump Towers,
notorious for unruly clubs in the building, has been investigated in 2011 after
a complaint about a vacant space inside the building. On inspection, the CPU
found that the space was "totally secured". The occupants of the
space had been arrested for a card-skimming business. The rest of the building
is business space. The CPU continued to monitor the building and the City said
that no further complaints have been received.
- 81 Lower Wrensch Road is
now being re-developed into a three-storey, nine-unit block of flats. The saga
started several years ago when the previous owner purposefully neglected the
building after residents opposed his plan to build a block of flats. The
building was the historic Old Dairy, where Obs residents used to buy their milk
some 50 years ago. The building was sold to Ibrahim Abader, who also owns
Excite Taxis, and was demolished. Construction is now taking place.
Man hangs himself from tree at the Liesbeek
A 77-year-old man recently committed suicide by
hanging himself off a tree by the Liesbeek River.
Trevor Hughes, owner of The Wild Fig
restaurant, said that the body was discovered by a passer-by in a tree near the
N2, opposite the Wild Fig.
Trevor said it was hard to spot the man,
because of the shadows under the trees. He looked like he was standing because
his feet were touching the ground.
Woodstock police spokesperson sergeant Hilton
Malila said that the police were called to the scene and found the man hanging from a pair of
trousers. He wore brown pants, brown boots and a maroon jersey. They found his
ID document and a R30 in his pocket. His ID confirmed that his name was Hendrik
Petrus, 77. They are unable to say where the man lived.
Trevor said the body hung for four hours after
its discovery with no attempt from the police to cover it.
Sgt Malila said that he could not confirm this.
However, he did sometimes the investigation of such a scene takes a long time
to establish whether any foul play was involved. Sgt Malila said that the
police cordoned off the scene and covered the body with an insulating
One cop for every 280 residents
FOR every 280 residents of Woodstock, there is one police officer, according to figures released controversially by the office of the Western Cape police commissioner.
This is a slightly better ratio than the national average of 321 South Africans per police officer, and slightly worse than the Western Cape average of 245. (The United Nations recommends a ratio of at least 1 to 400). But it is nowhere near as bad as Mitchells Plain, where one officer serves more than 3 200 people, or Khayelitsha, where the ratio is one to 1 672, according to the controversial set of figures.
Even more fortunate than Woodstockers are the residents of neighbouring Mowbray, where there is one police officer for every 94 people. Rondebosch is similarly privileged with one police officer for every 115 residents.
Even if the figures were just somewhat accurate, the controversy is likely to dent the credibility of police spokespeople who often urge the public to report every crime incident so that the police know where to allocate resources.
The statistics caused a stir when they were revealed by the Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato, who said they were given to him by the office of the provincial police commissioner.
The police admitted that the figures did come from them, but said that they should not have been released as they are “not a true reflection of the current state of affairs”. However, they declined to give any detail of what the real state of affairs is, saying that it would be the subject of a discussion between the MEC and the commissioner, according to a police spokesperson.
Experts expressed surprise at the magnitude of the inequality in police resources between different areas suggested by the statistics. Dr Johan Burger from the Institute of Security Studies said if the figures were correct, “something is clearly wrong” with the allocation of resources.
Lizette Lancaster, a researcher working on police-population ratios, said because census areas, municipal boundaries and police precincts are different, it was very difficult for the police to work out exactly how many people there were in a particular precinct.
But Johan said the police-population ratio was the basis upon which any police service allocates its resources. Therefore, the police had a “very good idea of the estimated numbers”.
However, Lizette said although there is some awareness at station level about the local population numbers, it is doubtful that up-to-date ratios are used to coordinate police resources as part of a broader operational plan. She said the huge divergence in police-population ratios suggested by the figures is a remnant of the inequity of the apartheid system.
Both experts were scathing about the fact that the police have always kept these estimates secret. It is the public’s right to know, said Johan. Lizette agreed, saying transparency of the figures was important to empower communities to check up on the resources allocated to their local police station.
Obs con artist now busy in University Estate
A con artist active in Observatory seems to have
extended her stomping ground to University Estate, if reports from the two
areas do in fact relate to the same person. Compare the two reports below:
CJ from Observatory posted
this message on the Obs Neighbourhood Watch Google group earlier this month:
Today at roughly 2pm, a coloured woman about 20
years of age, medium to tall build, straight hair down to her shoulders,
wearing dark orange pants, brown jacket and a long ring on her engagement
finger attempted to steal a laptop from within my house.
She knocked on the door, convincing
my cleaner that she needed to read the prepaid electricity meter. My cleaner
cautiously let her in, but she needed to turn her back in order to let my dog
out of an adjacent room because he was scratching at the door. At this moment
she attempted to put my laptop under her shirt, my cleaner caught her in the
act and told her to leave, the dog (a normally very passive Rottweiler)
fortunately started growling at her too.
A building site caretaker next door
said she saw her at my door and recognised that she's been in the area before
with a writing pad, possibly otherwise door knocking for school
Maybe calls for reason to alert your
house staff not to let strangers in. And to call the cops or take a picture if
this skanky trollop does indeed attempt to.
More recently, Sandy Shepard from
University Estate posted on Facebook:
This afternoon a young woman (thin and described as looking
“Coloured”/”Muslim” and as a “tomboy”/wearing male attire) gained entry to my
house. The woman displayed a municipality card to my helper at home, Muriel
Mkwela, and stated that she had come to inspect the cracks in my house. She
“inspected” all the rooms but was confronted when Muriel saw items protruding
from her blouse and bag. Muriel made her leave the items but saw a police
baton, toilet paper and mail addressed to Ms C Hill of Ritchie Road in the
woman’s bag. The woman left upon being told by Muriel that she was phoning the
Muriel then indeed phoned the SAPS, who arrived promptly and
took a statement. They say this person has been active in our neighbourhood
before but had recently been inactive. Until today, that is. Before her arrival
at my house, she has been next door, soliciting money for a school.
Muriel’s phone was stolen. I am not sure what else has been
The smog of suspicion that tarnishes our neighbourhood
Kelly Cooke, an ObsLife reader, laments the lack of trust that crime has engendered in Observatory:
The corrugated metal wall between police statements & residents' complaints is still not transparent enough I believe. The huge amount of pedestrian traffic that is unmonitored in Obs, especially in the day when home owners are at work, is vast.
Food distributors can be legitimate door to door vendors; or gang members ascertaining who's at home & who isn't. It's this smog of suspicion that tarnishes our neighborhood.
I had my new Telkom directory hand delivered to my door recently. The delivery men asked me to open my security gate, sign for the book, give my ID and phone number on a unmarked paper they presented.
When I declined & stated that I'd rather pick up my copy from the Post Office, they became so outspoken that I pushed my panic button.
How many people are being coerced or threatened on their own doorsteps? And door steps is all we have in old Obs. More neighbors are upwardly mobile which means 2 cars per house & no parking for either!
Home owners pay more for their on street car insurance then for their mortgages. We see every month more housing complex buildings erected but no car parking for the residents or their visitors? And this is the Hartley Stadium side of Obs not the student Main Rd side.
Already residents cram their vehicles in any available cranny close to home in the hope of hearing a smashed window or alarm, if possible. The subways are cesspits of crime, waiting for some poor Obs resident forced to park there. Broken car glass is called "Obs confetti" a euphemism for -it's someone else's problem.
It breaks the communal spirit to fight over parking spaces. When will the Civic representation address this burgeoning problem & allocate parking spaces on cul de sac roads in Obs? In London, if one does not have a car, one can sell the parking rights of one's property for a lot of money.
What's the thinking in Obs? A shoot out at the local parking lot for parking space?
Stella Phillips , Big Issue vendor outside Kwikspar in Station Road.
Big Issue helps Obs vendor
to gain her independence
By Tammy Thompson
WITH a few copies of The Big Issue magazines
and her blue bib, Stella Phillips makes her way to the Observatory Kwikspar in Station Road through rain and
sunshine to provide for herself. Many residents that pass her are unaware of
the bigger project that Stella forms part of.
The Big Issue South Africa, a non-profit organisation based in Woodstock, started in 1996. This
job-creation program publishes a general-interest magazine every month which is
used as an income-generating method for the homeless and unemployed. The person sells
the magazine in a public space and keep half the cover price as profit.
There are currently
between 400 and 500 vendors signed up with The Big Issue, and between
200 and 300 vendors actively selling the magazine at any given time, says Th
Big Issue managing director Trudy Vlok.
Interestingly, out of 120 similar projects in
the world The
Big Issue South Africa has the most
female street-vendors."Forty percent of our vendors at any given time are
females," said Trudy . "They just happen to be the
bread-winners in their family unit."
Stella, 65, said she has
been with The Big Issue for 15 years.
Originally from Durban, she came to Cape Town and stayed in the Haven shelter.
There, a friend took her to the The Big
Most of their vendors
come from informal settlements. There are no vendors that are currently in the
programs who from shelters in Observatory, said Trudy.
When a new vendor comes
on board, they have an induction process, including an interview with one of
the two social workers.
They then joins a basic
training program and is given three The
Big Issue magazines to
start up their own „business“. They sell each magazine for R20 and get to keep
half of the cover price, out of which they need to buy the next batch of
magazines. Vendors can buy any amount of magazines with their profit."We
give them the tools and the training to run their own business, then they have
to take responsibility," said Trudy. "We don't consider them as
employees, but as entrepreneurs that are independent."
With the large amount of
female vendors,The Big Issue partnered
with creches in the areas that the vendors live and pay the creche fees so that
they do not have to take their children with them to the public spaces where
they sell the magazine."It‘s a bit tough out on the streets, especially
for ladies,“ said Trudy.
Once a vendor becomes
self-reliant, The Big Issue helps
them find jobs and suitable training courses.
Trudy explained that
vendors choose their own places to sell their magazines.
Stella said that vendors
can sell up to 12 magazines on a good day. "It's tough. Sometimes you
stand for 3 days and you sell nothing."
Stella, who is the only The
Big Issue vendor in Observatory, is a familiar face in the area. Other
vendors don't do so well in Observatory because people know Stella, said Trudy.
Trudy explained that
because international funding for The Big
Issue has dried up, they are in "serious financial trouble".
Another problem has been
a delay of National Lotteries Board funding. "I think for a lot of
organisations that has been quite crippling," said Trudy. "We're
looking at trying to increase our own income through increasing magazine sales
and through advertising sales."
Stella doesn't see
herself moving on from The Big Issue anytime
soon. "The Big Issue has helped me a lot," said Stella. She said she
always told the social worker at The Big
Issue that she wanted to have her place to stay and has now accomplished
Trudy appealed to any
businesses in the area who are willing to partner with or support The Big Issue to make contact with them.
Bridget and Craig Smeddle. They are accused of murdering a man in Bedford Street, Observatory. They are out on bail on condition that they undergo treatment for drug addiction.
Bedford Street murder:
court hears how victim died
By Tammy Thompson
The couple accused of murdering a Nigerian man
in Bedford Street sat passively in the stand in the Cape Town regional court
recently as the forensic pathologist described the gruesome details of the
wounds that they allegedly inflicted on the deceased.
Bridget and Craig Smeddle, both in their
twenties, were arrested in 2011 for the murder that happened infront of Camden
Mews, the block of flats in Bedford
Street where they apparently lived. Both of the accused were out on bail with a
request to seek rehabilitation for their addiction. The attack was believed to
have happened inside a vehicle, but the body was found on the pavement nearby.
In a grisly account of the autopsy report,
Doctor Linda Liedenberg, the forensic pathologist, said that the victim suffered
11 stab wounds to the back and was strangled repeatedly with a narrow, flexible
object, such as the wire on a cheese-cutter. The injuries were too narrow to
have been a knife.
Linda said the force used suggested that the
suspect strangled the victim from behind. The victim was strangled a few times.
This was indicated by the several postions of the "wire" over the
throat. The victim probably tried to grab hold of the object while he was being
strangled because he had a similar cut on his left hand. The force of the
strangulation bruised the victims's thyroid gland and adam's apple and he
"suffered the effects of strangulation to a significant extent".
Magistrate Victor Gibson later revealed that
the victim's blood was found on a piece of flexible wire with a lighter tied to
one end and a bottle-opener tied the other.
Linda found evidence of hypoxia, or
suffocation. She confirmed that the suspect was alive after the strangulation,
but couldn‘t say whether he was able to move or defend himself.
She went on to explain that the victim had a
total of 11 stab wounds to the back. Two of these wounds penetrated into the
body cavity. These two wounds were roughly 8 to 10 cm deep and damaged the
lungs and liver of the victim. Both lungs collapsed and because of this, the
victim was unable to breathe. The victim's clothing, a blue tracksuit top, was
blood-soaked, which indicated excessive blood loss to which the other stab
Linda's interpretation was that the victim was
strangled, which he tried to ward off, then stabbed. There are no indications
that he defended himself in the stabbings. She couldn't tell the positions of
the suspects during the attack.
Linda said that multiple factors contributed to
the death, so it was difficult to find a single cause. Asked if the deceased
would still have died if he had not suffered the two deep stab wounds, Linda
said that with the excessivwe blood loss and the strangulation, he would have
Magistrate Gibson asked Linda to comment on
photographs of where the body was found and the distance that the deceased
could have moved. Linda said that she
cannot see blood droplets on the road where he must have been stumbling, so she
doubted that the victim was stabbed inside the car. She also noticed that there wasn't a
sufficient amount of blood inside the car to correspond with his blood-soaked
clothing. She said that judging from the evidence, she would be more convinced
that the victim was stabbed where he was found on the pavement.
Blood droplets on the victim‘s face, which she
inferred were not the blood of the victim, led Linda to believe that someone
was standing over him. When she was shown pictures of the accused's wounds, she
confirmed that both of them had open wounds that could have dripped onto the
The state indicated that their next witness
could not testify because of a back operation. The court granted postponement
of the case until 23 October. The bail of
both of the accused has been extended.
Con man fleeces motorists
THE man in the video clip below identified himself to ObsLife as Mark Bisset. He said he was stuck without petrol on the Hospital Bend highway intersection and asked the Obs-Life reporter to phone his friend to fetch him, as he urgently had to get to a wedding ceremony for which he was hired as a photographer.
Our reporter phoned the friend, Derrick, who said he was busy in Paarl, and could only come in four hours’ time. Mark then asked ObsLife for some petrol money - “just enough for about 15 litres” - as his wallet had been stolen just that morning.
Spare a thought for Mark, who regularly has days like these.
Obs residents who work at the UCT Lung Institute overlooking the highway alerted ObsLife to the Con man's activities.
They often see him flagging down gullible Good Samaritans on various points of the highway junction. He has also been spotted at the Browning Road off ramp off Nelson Mandela Boulevard.
The clip below is part of the conversation between the con man and ObsLife.
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