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Cape Town - A stranded fishing boat decaying in the sand at Kalk Bay beach has found itself in the middle of a heated battle between residents and a group of squatters.
Kalk Bay residents claim the boat has become a sanctuary for vagrants and drug dealers since it first ran aground two years ago. And now they say the criminal activity is spilling out into the rest of the area.
But the squatters on board have lashed out at the rest of the neighbourhood, saying they have become victims of a long-running and misinformed smear campaign.
Standing in front of the fishing boat’s scorched stern, while police searched the cramped cabins inside, Simone Teichardt told the Cape Argus that she had become accustomed to the frequent and “invasive” drug raids.
“But you know what, they come here all the time and they don’t find jack-s***,” she said.
The 34-year-old has been staying on the boat with her boyfriend and four others since late last year. She has been unable to afford accommodation at the nearby fishermen’s flats.
“I don’t know where they get this drug-dealing s*** from. If I was dealing, would I still be living on a boat?”
David Lucas, 24, another of the boat’s inhabitants, said that while he might enjoy a bit of marijuana from time to time, he was not a dealer.
“The problem is the people who lived on here before us were selling drugs, but they are long gone.
“I like living here. It’s warm and it’s better than being out on the street.”
But Kalk Bay Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association chairman Tony Trimmel has flatly denied the unusual crew’s claims.
“It’s all nonsense. I can tell you now that 99 percent of the drug activity in the area originates from that boat.”
He said residents had been calling for the vessel’s removal from the beach for more than a year now.
“The decision to remove the boat is sitting with the Department of Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries, but they are dragging their heels. All it would take is a simple letter and we can be done with this.”
He said some residents wanted to dismantle or destroy the boat themselves.
“I have stressed that we need to stick to the legal process because the boat’s owner could turn around and sue us. The last thing we need is to become criminals ourselves.”
The area’s ward councillor David D’Alton confirmed that he had received numerous complaints from residents about alleged criminal activity that stemmed from the vessel.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said the local police station was aware that the abandoned boat was being used to shelter criminal elements.
“It has been searched on numerous occasions during operations held in the Kalk Bay area, where arrests have been effected for the possession of narcotics.” He said police had been approached to arrest the people living on the boat for trespassing.
They were unable to consent to the request because in order to prosecute for trespassing, the “owner” would have to come forward and provide a statement.
He assured the community that police would continue to visit and search the abandoned boat as long as it remained on the beach.