Pretoria North residents and businesses owners decided to take matters into their own hands by cleaning streets and fixing potholes – until the local metro police told them it was illegal.
Local estate agent Quentin Meyer saw a social media post of raw bones being dumped in a field in the area two months ago.
He said most of the comments on the post were about Pretoria North turning into a dump.
“I always ask my clients why they want to sell their house. Nine times out of 10 clients say Pretoria North is not what it used to be,” he said.
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Meyer said they had decided to do it themselves because they didn’t get support from the city.
“I started fixing potholes with AfriForum in the area. Then the interest started to grow in the community. We then started cleaning parks and picking up litter,” he said.
He said they approached the city to remove the litter and waste with no success.
Meyer decided to start a group #onssalself (We will [do it] ourselves) and approached local businesses to join in the initiative.
He said he was inspired by a recent video entry for Kroonstad into a Town of the Year competition where residents took back their community.
“And the outcome was stunning, so we decided to do the same. We wanted to take back Pretoria North,” he said.
But this week, the metro police told workers cleaning up the Rachel de Beer intersection they were cleaning up illegally.
Meyer said there were various crime hotspots in the area due to the lack of upkeep in the area.
“Last week, a woman was robbed at a traffic light when a criminal jumped out of the overgrown grass on the island,” Meyer explained.
City of Tshwane spokesperson Sipho Stuurman said the city encouraged the residents and communities to come together to keep the city clean.
“We really appreciate it when they take the initiative to keep neighbourhoods and the environment clean,” Stuurman said.
He said illegal littering and dumping needed to stop.
“If communities are taking up these initiatives, they need to alert the city so that we are aware and can offer our support.
“We have cleanups every month, but we coordinate with the public. They shouldn’t do it on their own to avoid incidents,” he said.
Stuurman said it was not illegal to clean up.
“But when we have workers assigned to an area, it could lead to conflict and confusion. It can come across as interfering with their jobs,” he said.
Meyer said the funds raised by the public and business have assisted him to employ seven homeless men from The House of Peace in Wolmer.
He said the group was focused on cleaning up the entrance to their area and wanted to paint the pillars of the bridge to cover the graffiti and abortion adverts.
“We also plant plants and a board that reads ‘Welcome to Pretoria North’,” he said.
Meyer said over the weekend volunteers helped in other areas in the community, such as the cemetery.
Last September, “Cabbage Bandit” Joe Nkuna was told to remove the cabbages which he grew as a community garden in front of his Theresapark, Akasia house, or face the consequences.
Nkuna said he was told by the metro police that it was illegal to grow vegetables on the pavement in front of his house.
He was fined R1,500 for his temerity in attempting to provide free food, however the case was withdrawn in court.
Nkuna said at the time he hoped the council had learned its lesson and would apply the principals of Batho Pele (people first) in future.