Durban - RESIDENTS are feeling vulnerable after the eThekwini Municipality called for the removal of security boom gates on public roads.
According to the Road Traffic Act, no person may place an obstruction within the road reserve.
The residents of a cul-de-sac in Grosdale Close and Fairdale Place, in Newlands West, claimed that last Saturday, metro police instructed them to remove a boom gate and guard hut or face a R5000 fine.
Satish Mohan, of Grosdale Close, said that with crime being what it was, the decision to implement the act was tantamount to throwing the community to “a pack of hungry lions”.
He said three years ago, three families who lived in the cul-de-sac were attacked in a week.
One of them, said Mohan, was assaulted and a plastic bag was placed over his wife’s head.
“As a precautionary measure, we formed the G&F Community Neighbourhood Watch. We decided we needed to implement a system that allowed us to monitor the area, but not restrict who entered and exited.
“This proved beneficial and we have not had any crime-related incidents in three years.”
He said they were instructed to remove the boom gate following a complaint.
“We contacted the municipality to ask if we could use the boom gate from 6pm to 6am and they agreed. But we were then instructed to remove it. We have been told we can use two beacons instead.”
Ramesh Lakraj, of Fairdale Place, claimed his neighbour’s tyres and car rims were stolen after the boom gate was removed.
“Criminals are looking for an opportunity to strike. The boom gate provided us with a sense of security. We could sit in our yards at night or allow our children outdoors. Now everyone is afraid.”
Sanjay Inderlal, of Grosdale Close, added: “We knew the boom gate did not offer complete protection but it was an added safety measure.”
The chairman of the Newlands East CPF, Thomas Jafta, said the area had seven boom gates.
“Crime levels are so high that we are living like prisoners in our own homes. These boom gates help residents sleep better at night.
“Also, we cannot be solely dependent on law enforcement. We will, therefore, address the issue with the various stakeholders at our next meeting.”
Residents of Harrogate Place in Southgate, Phoenix, are also fearful.
“Since the boom gate was erected, we have been crime-free for four years,” said Sagadevan Perumal.
“The municipality and the police are quick to say remove the boom gate, but when we become the victims of crime, will they be just as quick to respond?”
Shalen Sukhlal said he was concerned for the safety of his elderly father, who was alone at home during the day, while Debbie Ramanand added the police would need to increase patrols if the boom gate was removed.
“We pay for the facility out of our own pockets every month to ensure our safety, so what is the problem?” she asked.
A security guard said every resident in the area had a sticker on their cars, which allowed them entry into the neighbourbood, and that visitors were asked to sign in.
The DA’s state security spokesperson, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said it was residents’ civic right to protect themselves.
“At a time when crime is so rife and you hear of people being killed every day, it has become a situation where it is basically every man for himself. If you don’t worry about your own safety, who will? To implement such a by-law is a slap in the face for these communities.”
Justice and violence prevention consultant at the Institute for Security Studies, Johan Burger, added: “Communities are forced into trying alternative safety measures as the state fails to provide them with the safety and security they are entitled to. However, communities are yet again put at risk, even when they try to protect themselves.
“When communities are told to remove these safety mechanisms, be it by the municipality or police, then it is the duty of those parties to fill those gaps and provide the necessary security.”
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said they did not support any installation that constituted a restriction to the flow of traffic or any installation that would be seen as a restriction to right of access on a public road.
“Also, the city does not support any permanent structures or installations on the roadside or verge and opposes any structure or installation that compromises road user safety.”
He said any formal complaint lodged with the transport authority, in respect of any such installations, would be investigated and removed.