Concern over Naval Hill squatters

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The number of squatters at the foot of Naval Hill have grown exponentially, which has residents in the area worried about the social impact of such a growth. PHOTO: PIERCE VAN HEERDEN

People living in the vicinity of Naval Hill, are very concerned about the growing number of squatters who have started settling at the foot of the hill lately.
It is especially the activity at the dilapidated old backpackers building that is causing sleepless nights for residents. During a recent raid police officials apparently came upon various hand-made weapons in the building, among others pangas and a sharpened golf stick. Numerous of the squatters have also been arrested by the police for various offences.

Andries van Dijk PHOTO: PIERCE VAN HEERDEN

Andries van Dijk, one of the concerned residents, said he is especially sad about the fact that a once popular tourist attraction such as the old backpackers building is no longer of use to the city.
“Tourists could previously stay over in the building while hiking or enjoying game viewing. Nowadays, however, it is impossible due to the deterioration of the environment. I myself have had to caution international tourists who wanted to visit Naval Hill against going there.
“The municipality did put in an effort to beautify and secure the top of the hill a few years ago, but at the foot of the hill things are happening that will make your hair stand on end,” Van Dijk said.

The living conditions inside the old back packers building on Naval Hill.

He said he realises that many people in Bloemfontein have nowhere to stay, but he is of the opinion that homeless people should rather be accommodated in formal residential areas with adequate facilities. He said his complaints as well as those of many others to the municipality and the police have as yet been to no avail.
“The people are living at Naval Hill in inhuman, dire circumstances. There are no toilet facilities and the waste they accumulate is not removed. As residents of the city they deserve to be given a place to stay where circumstances are better.

“And the problem is growing continuously. At first there were only men, but lately women are also living there. How long before there are children? And in the meantime the municipality and the police are pointing a finger at each other about who should be taking responsibility for the problem.”
Bloemfontein Courant approached the communications department of the Mangaung Metro Municipality for a comment, but hasn’t received a final response by the time of going to press. – Pieter Delport
pieterd@mahareng.co.za