Pretoria - Policing authorities have vowed to confront squatters and criminals terrorising the Wonderboom National Airport as well as nearby residents and businesses.
This follows a critical meeting on Tuesday in the office of airport manager Waheed Mohamed involving management, security, the SAPS and Tshwane metro police department.
The operation was facilitated by ward councillor Lenise Breytenbach, who launched a 100 Days Change mission to work with stakeholders to turn things around.
Plans for an intense operation are already in motion, and the participants were taken on a flight around the hot spots to get a good appreciation of the nature of the problem.
The airport is planning to apply to be listed as a national key point, but management is fed up with the rampant crime and disturbing activities in and around its fences.
The airport said it had been busting criminals who have attempted to fly across the country with fake documents, and those wanting to steal cars.
Illegal squatters burning cables and disturbing planes with smoke just outside its fences have also been facing the music.
Mohamed said the burning of material around airport fences at one point caused a bird strike above the airport.
That was unacceptable for an airport that’s actually the biggest in the country in terms of flying schools and repairs.
He said as if that was not enough, criminals stole three cars in the airport this year. Cables from one of the antennas helping pilots to land planes were also stolen.
Numerous illegal shacks were built in the open field around the airport, among them Sinoville and Annlin Extension 36 and 37. Some of the shacks are hidden under trees, and most of the occupants can only be seen at night or early in the morning.
Breytenbach said: “We want to fence-in the field where these shacks are located so that if there is a need for a police raid, we can catch culprits. Right now when police enter the field, some people start running. Those are the people who terrorise residents in the nearby houses.
“There are a lot of armed robberies and housebreakings. A woman was raped not so long ago.
“This is a big problem in this developing area. We can’t move these people because we need to have a shelter for them. However, we are going to work on that while we keep a close eye on this area.”
All agreed that the operation date would be kept confidential so they could catch the culprits off-guard.
Mohamed said these crimes were not just committed by drug addicts who stole small cables but syndicates that run organised crime as well. “This year we caught a lurking man who revealed that he was being paid R200 for six days every week to commit crimes. The people who pay him do not care how much cable he brings, just as long as he brings something.
“We are saying this is a big problem that’s affecting not only the airport, but residents outside and we are inviting people and organisations to come on board and seek solutions. Let’s work together to deal with this problem,” he said.
Breytenbach said this was the only airport in the country owned by a municipality and it needed to be protected and celebrated. People travelled from across the world to learn to fly and repair planes at the facility.
About 450 to 500 planes land at Wonderboom daily.
In the hot spots identified, it was noted that there were numerous pathways, which strangely lead to nowhere.