The Agnar Street house looking positively bare and clear since contractors employed by the municipality started working on it. The outside bushes and mess have been cleared and this is still a work in progress. Photo:Supplied
KNYSNA NEWS - Following the discovery of two houses in Knysna that are totally trashed, inhabited by vagrants and possible drug addicts, and in general a scourge on the town, action has been taken by Knysna's municipal manager, Grant Easton.
When the houses were exposed for the blight on Knysna that they were in late May, Easton immediately committed to attending to the problem.
At the time, Easton revealed that both houses – in Agnar Street (erf 460) as well as a house in Mount Joy Road, Upper Central (erf 3408) – were properties owned by the Department of Public Works.
Correspondence between the municipality and the State department took place – and eventually Easton said the Knysna municipality would appoint a contractor to clean the houses, which has now been done as of the end of last week.
The contractor commenced last week with cleaning of the premises. "They are finished with the Mount Joy house and expect to be done with the magistrate's house during the course of the week," confirmed municipal spokesperson Chumisa Kalawe on this week.
The one home had been used by the Department of Justice and magistrates lived there, and most recently a public prosecutor, who left Knysna in 2011. Since then this house has become home to vagrants.
It is not clear who lived in the other property in Upper Central or when this house became empty, but since then it has also been trashed.
This week, when the Knyna-Plett Herald went back through various documents, it was clear that what even Easton calls a "dire situation … and disgusting mess", has been brought to the attention of the director general of Public Works many times, by more than one municipal manager and other politicians.
Even the mayor, Georlene Wolmarans, had been copied on this problem more than once.
In 2014, then municipal manager Lauren Waring consulted with the fire department and wrote to Public Works. In this letter she said the neglected condition of the property in Agnar Street was an embarrassment to residents in the area.
It would seem that in 2014 there was a dispute over the price of garden services to clear the outside of the "magistrate's house" in Agnar Street, after the fire department and Waring warned the the relevant government department that the property "is extremely overgrown … and is therefore not in compliance with the provision of the Fire Brigade Services Act (Act 99 of 1987) as well as the bylaws relating to community fire safety", said Waring at the time.
Waring's instructions were to have the property cleared within 21 days and all the waste was to be removed, not burnt on site.
This clearly did not happen.
In some correspondence in 2013 in response to Waring's requests Public Works said the property was handed over to Correctional Services on July 25, 2013.
According to this response a call was logged for clearing of the garden, which was done. Security was also appointed to be on site as the house has to be renovated before Correctional Services could occupy it.
Obviously this did not come to fruition either.
Since correspondence from Waring in 2013 to Public Works, saying that the house had been empty for a year, was infested with vermin, had been broken into and was being used by vagrants and drug users, all municipal attempts (Knysna and Eden District municipalities) to get the government department to take ownership of the problem, nothing has been done.
This is despite the fact that this situation has worsened over the years, even though the house has heritage value as it is more than 60 years old.
The Department of Public Works own this house in Mount Joy Road, which has now been cleaned up by a contractor appointed by the Knysna municipality. Photo: Supplied
A severely trimmed garden has exposed the house in Mount Joy so that is is now harder for vagrants to live in it. Photo: Supplied