Free for all as Joburg’s abandoned pound is invaded and stripped

SAVE OUR CITY: Everson Luhanga visits an abandoned city project to impound vehicles, and finds a wasteland ravaged by vandals.

In June this year, Scrolla.Africa received a call from residents living in Johannesburg’s industrial suburb of Cleveland.

They were worried about a city building in Denver, next to the Iveco truck manufacturing facility, being vandalised.

Just a few years ago, the area was going to be the site of an ambitious government project. An amount of R45 million had been spent on transforming it into a pound to house thousands of impounded cars. But the project was abandoned and the money was lost.

Since then criminals armed with hammers and chisels have systematically removed everything saleable, from bricks to steel rods.

Resident Thando Mashishi took our team on a tour showing how criminals have stripped a once glorious building. The building was the old Nampak factory that manufactured paper products.

He said residents started breaking apart its locked gate in November 2022. “The place was locked and it was a great building. 

“First people came here and claimed that they would be staying in the building. They started marking their territory with their names marked on the floor and walls,” he said.

When the Scrolla.Africa team arrived at the pound, it was littered with scavengers busy stripping away its scrap metal. Some had bricks piled at one corner ready to be taken away and sold.

With no fear about being filmed, they continued stripping the building in view of the cameras.

A small room where the electricity transformer had been kept had been turned into a living space. The transformer was stolen and the entry to the room had the name of the “owner” written on it.

Water gushed out unattended day and night from the underground water pipes on the premises.

Thando said he started asking for help from different people in authority to rescue the building but no one came forward.

“Everyone seems far away and unwilling to help,” he said.

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda confirmed in a statement released last week that the property in question belongs to the City of Johannesburg. It was purchased in 2019 for R40 million and was intended for use as a pound for the Johannesburg Metro Police Department.

A further R5 million was spent securing the premises.

“According to the preliminary investigation by the JMPD, there are allegations that a senior member of the South African Police Services may be involved in the ongoing invasion of the property,” said Gwamanda.

Gwamanda visited the site on Wednesday last week. He has mandated the City manager and City administration to take the necessary steps to protect and secure the pound and to prevent any further damage to its facilities.

Pictured above: The Cleveland site is a wasteland after vandals had their way

Photo source: Everson Luhanga

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