File picture: Masi Losi/Independent Media

Johannesburg - The battle of the booms looms in Joburg, meaning gated communities across the city might no longer be gated.

In a major crackdown on security policy infringement, the City of Joburg, through the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), has warned that illegal closures of public streets for security reasons will no longer be tolerated and will be removed. And, to prove its point, the agency on Thursday forcibly removed several illegal booms and pedestrian gates in Hurlingham Manor North.

JRA managing director Dr Sean Phillips said that, together with the Joburg metro police department, it had removed two pedestrian gates, four access-control points and two palisade gates due to non-compliance with the city’s security access restriction policy of 2014.

Security-access restriction, he said, was a temporary road closure for the purpose of safety and security which was applied for by residents' associations and other organisations to the city’s transport department.

Phillips said the Hurlingham North Residents’ Association (HNRA) had applied for, and been approved, security-access restriction on February 2 last year, for a period of two years. However, the following conditions imposed had been contravened:

* Two pedestrian gates, meant to be left open 24 hours a day, had been left permanently locked, leading to increased travel distances for pedestrians and motorists along Republic Road. No reasons were provided to justify the total absence of pedestrian access at the two roads.

* Four electronic access-control points, as well as two illegal palisade gates, were confiscated. These created the impression that the area is private and not accessible to all. According to the policy, no form of discrimination can be applied when granting access to a security access-restriction area such as Hurlingham Manor North, he said.

The city currently has 383 security-access restrictions, and the JRA would continue its drive to ensure compliance with the access conditions to protect the roads and the public’s access to these roads.

The DA ward councillor, David Potter, has now come under fire because of the JRA’s action, with residents threatening never to vote for the DA again. “Permission was granted for the closures, and this was subject to the adherence of specific conditions.

"These conditions, however, were not respected, rendering the road closures illegal. While I understand and sympathise with the legitimate security concerns of the residents, the rule of law exists to ensure that the needs and concerns of one group do not impinge on the needs, concerns and freedom of others,” he added.

Under the previous administration, said Potter, the rule of law was allowed to slip to such an extent that residents needed a reminder of what the laws were and why they should be respected.

“The rule of law is one of the major priorities of the DA-run city and should be applied universally without fear or favour,” he said.

Between March 2015 and last month there had been regular communication between the JRA and the HNRA, during which time the residents’ association was given ample opportunity to comply with the conditions of their closure approval, which was due to expire in February 2017.

In October last year, contraventions were brought to the HNRA’s attention by the JRA, and they were granted 30 days to comply.

“I am saddened by the reactions of some residents to today’s events, claiming that they will no longer vote for the DA because of the decision to enforce an approved council policy,” he said.

HNRA chairperson Rob Lage said the association had been compliant at the time the booms were removed. He said they were not given sufficient notice in terms of the law to remove or regularise the booms. The association would be applying for an urgent interdict this week against the council to reinstate the booms.

“The fact that the city is accusing us of flouting the rule of law is defamatory. We are not a bunch of cowboys who flout the law and disregard others' rights. The council and JRA did not follow proper procedures regarding the recording of meetings and time frames. City officials also refused to meet with us with our legal representatives present,” he said.

Hurlingham Manor North had been plagued by many "follow-home" robberies where residents’ lives were at stake. “These vehicles are using cloned number plates, so we had to have a facial recognition mechanism in our electronic booms, which they are now saying are illegal.

"Under the city’s 2003 road closure policy, electronic gates were allowed. We were awaiting clarification on this. The councillor's statement that we don't have approvals is therefore false,” Lage said.

The Star