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‘Backyard’ mechanics in Belrail

Residents of Belrail have been left frustrated and angry by apparent illegal mechanical businesses operating from a street in the area, with nothing being done despite months of complaints.

One resident, who fears for his safety and has complained about this issue to the City of Cape Town for around 18 months, says these businesses create various problems.

All the businesses are situated in Ryk Tulbagh Street and numerous cars are standing in front of the different premises and on an open field nearby. Many seem abandoned.

According to the man, the mechanics are constantly making a noise, which prevents him from sleeping. “We can’t rest properly.” The mechanics’ litter and junk parts are strewn all over the area, which in turn entices mice.

Added to that, one of the residents is apparently running an illegal backpacker’s lodge.

More than one resident spoken to says they believe there are other illegal activities taking place at the premises.

The owner of one of the houses, Maheindra Duister, says he is fed up with the situation.

He bought the house a few years ago for the rental income, but he says he is thinking of selling it because of all the problems he has had with his tenants who are part of the group working on cars.

“When I sell this house people are going to ask me whether they’re buying a house in a scrapyard,” he says.

In the meantime he wants to get his current tenants evicted. “My lawyers are setting up the papers.”

Duister says he has reported the issue, but nothing has come from it.

“They just ignore the municipality.”

Felicity Purchase, the City’s Mayco member for transport and urban development, says the City’s development management enforcement section hasn’t received any new complaints regarding the properties since 2017.

She says in August 2017 unlawful motor repair activities were observed at two of the properties. In September 2017, when they followed up at one of the properties, they found the activity had stopped and they closed the file.

The other property is still in limbo. “Investigations have been underway and additional inspections will be conducted soon. Once concluded, the findings will be forwarded to the City’s legal office for further action.”

As for the backpacker’s lodge, Purchase says they are still waiting for “additional information requested from the complainant in order to investigate this matter”.

Richard Bosman, executive director for safety and security, stipulated how they’ve patrolled the area over the past few months.

“During June 2018, five vehicles were marked as abandoned; in August 2018, 16 vehicles were marked as abandoned; and in October 2018, three vehicles were marked as abandoned. One vehicle was towed away in October, while the other vehicles were moved before the observation period expired.”

He said vehicles that have been marked as abandoned are deemed as having moved even if they move by a small amount. “And the observation period would have to start over.”

“If the vehicle remains in the same spot for longer than seven days without moving at all, the necessary arrangements will be made by Traffic Services to have the vehicle towed away.” He said complaints should be logged with the City’s call centre.

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