Watch: Boksburg – the city of vagrants

Nico Pretorius (27) has been homeless for the past two years

 

Vagrants have returned and are now squatting on the grass at the service station on the corner of Rondebult and North Rand roads.

This is after the EMPD removed homeless people squatting on this corner on February 15.

There were complaints to the newspaper in October last year, stating the intersection is one of the main entrances to Boksburg.

A tenant at the K90 Centre also again contacted the Advertiser to complain about the situation in February.

Upon visiting the vagrants, the Advertiser found a husband and wife along with their nephew, sitting next to their stack of blankets, cardboard boxes and plastic wraps, in the midst of traffic at about 11.30 am.

“We have been staying on the streets of Boksburg for the past eight years,” said the woman.

Her nephew mentioned that he hitchhikes to Bloemfontein to visit his brother every now and then and was seriously injured recently when he was attacked for R200.

According to the woman, her mother used to squat with them.

“The metro gave us a place to live in Springs, but after a week or so there, my mother died,” said the woman.

After her mother’s death, the three found themselves homeless and on the corner of one of the busiest roads in Boksburg once again.

They said they don’t want to have anything to do with their families and that they prefer being able to go where they want and do as they please. They have not looked for jobs and seem alright with how things stand.

“We don’t bother anyone, we keep it clean here and the service station management does not mind us,” said the woman.

“We use the water from the service station to wash,” said her husband.

  • Manager speaks out

Their story, however, does not coincide with the K90 service station manager, Michael Drigianakis, who told the Advertiser that they have been trying to get rid of the squatters, but their attempts have been futile.

Drigianakis said he has complained to the metro, begging for the squatters to be taken away.

“They use our bathrooms and water. When it rains they come and squat right under our roof in the parking lot,” said Drigianakis.

“In the evening they intimidate our customers and get involved in arguments with our staff.”

Drigianakis seems frustrated with the squatters as, “it is an eyesore for our business and our community.”

The Advertiser recently raised the concern with EMPD chief superintendent Wilfred Kgasago after noticing the homeless had again set up shelters at the intersection.

No response was received from the metro at the time of going to print.

  • Trying to survive

With the reality of poverty and homeless people very apparent in our community, the Advertiser drove down North Rand Road, and in a stretch of 4.5km spoke to eight individual squatters and there are many more who did not want to speak to the Advertiser.

Only 600m from the service station, there is another vagrant called André, who was busy folding shapes out of leaves when we approached him with sandwiches.

“I have been homeless in Boksburg for the past three years,” said André.

“I have no family or support system. I sleep wherever I fall down.”

A mere 250m from André, the Advertiser found Nico Pretorius, a 27-year-old man who squats on the corner of North Rand and Jeremy Kark roads.

Nico told the Advertiser that he had a job as a carpenter and plumber but, “it just did not work out” and he has been on the street for the past two years.

“The SAPS and metro leave me alone, they never tried to help or relocate me,” said Nico.

The Advertiser also spoke to two brothers, who are squatting next to another service station in North Rand Road.

The two brothers, 28 and 25, have been squatting in the area for the past two years.

“We grew up in Kempton Park and were in and out of schools and children’s homes. We made a lot of terrible decisions in our lives, but we have changed. Now we don’t have anywhere to go.” said the eldest brother.

The eldest brother has a driver’s licence, but without an ID document, he cannot find a job.

ALSO READ:

Illegal squatters again removed from North Rand Road

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  AUTHOR
Sunel Gilliland
Journalist

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