After a spate of criminal activities on the R300 overhead bridge linking Mandalay and Lower Crossroads, residents took matters into their own hands and closed off the walkway.
On Saturday July 25, the fed-up community of Mandalay closed the foot bridge by building a brick wall on their side before welding it shut with irons.
However, this has sparked tensions with the community of Lower Crossroads who also need to use the bridge daily.
Residents say the overhead bridge has become dangerous with people being robbed of their belongings and criminals using it as an escape route.
The Mandalay residents said closing their end of the bridge was not to stop Lower Crossroads residents from coming to their side, but to protect both communities from criminals that terrorised those who walked on it.
They said they took the lead in the matter by appealing to their neighbours to assist in finding a way forward but that has never happened.
Mandalay resident Golden Haanse, 73, has applauded those who decided to close the bridge. He said people are killed and robbed on the bridge.
“I guess there was no way that people could have done better. This is plausible. We had sleepless nights caused by this bridge. There was a time when we were forced to patrol at night because of it. The first day of its opening, way back, three people were found dead here. That continued for years,” he said.
He said there would be advantages and disadvantages of the closure.
“Lower Crossroads residents come to this side for certain things. We go there to take taxis. Our councillor stays there. This will affect all of us in one way or another. But it will save many lives. It will save many households from being robbed, from both sides,” he said.
When Vukani visited the bridge on Monday, residents had to resort to crossing the treacherous R300, ducking and diving from speeding cars.
Mr Haanse said the openings in walls which allow people to access the road must also be closed.
“It was easy to go to Lower Crossroads and come here. But now if Lower Crossroads people want to come to this side, they must use amaphela (taxis) and we will also see how to get there,” said Mr Haanse.
Another Mandalay resident who only identified himself as Thanduluntu expressed his concern as he uses the overhead bridge daily.
He said had everyone been consulted, there could have been a solution.
He accused those who closed the bridge as being newcomers to Mandalay who do not know the dynamics of the two communities.
“By Friday this will be down. We will dismantle this wall. This is not fair to both communities. This should have not happened at all,” he said angrily.
Councilor Mboniswa Chitha said residents of Mandalay approached him before closing off the bridge.
He said the only solution is to have people patrolling day and night at that point. “It is not right to close the bridge but again if you look at it positively, it will save both Mandalay and Lower Crossroads people. It is true that skollies are using that bridge to rob and kill people. The bridge was done to save people from the speeding cars on the R300 but now people are dying through guns and knives on top of that bridge. One has to contradict himself here. I condemn the closure but I also approved the closure because it saves people,” he said.
He said it would require all community members to work together with the police in order to prevent crime.
He said both police stations, Lentegeur and Philippi East would need to talk and put a mobile station there.
Jandré Bakker, head of communication for the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW), said the bridge dates back to 2003. He said it was erected to allow safe crossing of a busy road. He said his department was not aware of the alleged closing of the bridge by the public.
“DTPW can further confirm that no process to close the bridge was followed with the DTPW. We are further not aware of any complaints logged regarding the bridge. Based on the query, the team went out to inspect the bridge. There was no structural damage to the bridge. The Routine Road Maintenance team confirmed that the closed-off section falls outside of the DTPW’s road reserve and therefore outside of their scope of works. It is therefore advised that the City of Cape Town is notified for further intervention,” he said.
He however, said the DTPW is disappointed at the closing of the bridge. He said the communities should follow the appropriate route with law enforcement agencies such as the South African Police Service, the Department of Community Safety, Community Policing Forums, Neighbourhood Watches and Municipal Law Enforcement.