Columns 5.9.2013 08:00 am

City belongs to us, not thugs

FILE PICTURE: Democratic Alliance MP Ian Ollis. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

FILE PICTURE: Democratic Alliance MP Ian Ollis. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Are we losing control of public space in Johannesburg to criminals? In the past eight years I have been attacked three times, while driving, in the same part of Johannesburg.

Are we developing “no go” areas again, to be avoided at all costs?

The first occasion was in 2005 driving down Wolmarans Street, just below Hillbrow, on my way to the Civic Centre. Two robbers smashed both front windows of my car and took my cellphone.

Unable to move, in the middle of traffic, stopped at the traffic light, one becomes a sitting duck. The Hillbrow police took a statement and told me crimes were frequently reported on Wolmarans Street.

The second incident occurred on Harrow Road, now called Joe Slovo Drive, near the Abel Street intersection in Hillbrow, on my way to Killarney from Kensington.

A man who appeared suddenly next to my car grabbed the door handle of the front door and tried to open it and get in.

He appeared to be high on drugs and luckily for me the door was locked. He then tried the back door, but I was able to drive off before anything further happened.

A week ago, en route to a birthday party in Kensington, I took Joe Slovo Drive past Ellis Park as the shortest route from the North.

As I stopped at the Abel Street intersection, I noticed that I had left the driver’s window open a crack. Too late – three pairs of hands were already in the window before I managed to close it. They shouted “Give me your f*****g phone! Give me your phone”. I leaned on the hooter to attract attention and tried to close the window.

The robbers tried to pull the glass outwards and break the windowpane in half! Miraculously it never broke.

I realised there was a gap behind my car so I put the car into reverse. One of the robbers shouted: “If you reverse I am going to shoot.”

I saw no gun and reversed while again winding up the window. The window went up – fingers out of the car. I immediately drove off as the light changed green at that very moment, and I was able to drive to my friend’s birthday dinner, nerves a little shattered.

All three incidents happened in a three-block radius. It is symptomatic of the drug and crime wave coming from Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville. I find it totally unacceptable that we have to declare parts of the city “no go” areas.

Motorists, pedestrians and commuters should not be put through this kind of regular ordeal. It is simply not good enough to avoid these areas and hide in the shopping malls and better areas of Gauteng.

The SAPS, JMPD and local, provincial and national politicians have been aware of this state of affairs but even the president ignores the problem and instead chooses to highlight Eldorado Park drug issues, because there are more opposition votes there, which he seeks to gain. So what should happen? The city needs an expanded network of cameras on these dangerous routes monitored by SAPS and JMPD.

Cars should be dispatched promptly to respond to incidents. Of course the street lights need to be working too. On Friday when I drove from Killarney up Houghton Drive, onto Joe Slovo, not a single streetlight was burning. It’s these basics, which keep residents safe at night.

Ian Ollis is DA shadow transport minister. Follow him on Twitter: @ianollis

 

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