Derek Bock, chief operating officer of the Voortrekker Road City Improvement District.
Cape Town’s newest City Improvement District, the Voortrekker Road Corridor City Improvement District (VRCID) will become fully operational on August 1 with the deployment of additional cleansing and private security officers in the precinct. However, Derek Bock has been appointed as its first chief operations officer (COO) from July 1.
The VRCID will have one of the largest CID footprints in Cape Town and Bock says it is also one of the most challenging areas when it comes to crime and grime issues.
Bock was the former COO of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District and after that worked at Eurocape Holdings, the Irish property development company responsible for developments such as the Taj Hotel and Mandela Rhodes Place in the Cape Town CBD.
The VRCID is part of Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme of the City led by the Mayor, Patricia de Lille, and includes Voortrekker Road from Strand Street near Stikland towards Jan van Riebeeck Drive, passing through the Bellville and Parow CBDs. It also incorporates Durban Road from Voortrekker Road to the N1. Although the Bellville station and taxi rank are within the precinct the VRCID will have no jurisdiction on these premises.
In association with Radio Tygerberg and supported by the Bellville Sakekamer and other prominent businesses in the area, the founding members took the initiative to seek solutions to the problems along and adjacent to Voortrekker Road through Parow and Bellville. Bock says crime, littering, illegal dumping, homelessness, aggressive begging, informal car guards, prostitution and drug dealing are the order of the day in this area.
“The vision of the VRCID is to create and maintain a clean and safe urban environment along the Voortrekker Road corridor,” he says.
Its goals include:
- Reducing crime significantly by proactive visible patrolling and cooperation with existing SAPS, Metro Police and Law Enforcement efforts in the area.
- Creating a safe and clean public environment by addressing issues of maintenance and street, pavement and public space cleansing.
- Seeking to provide jobs for homeless people.
- Supporting the promotion of the VRCID as a safe and clean environment to work and live in.
- The sustained and effective management of the VRCID.
“Anyone who works or lives in the area will tell you this is not a nice place to be, by day or by night, and we need to change this for the good of everyone. It reminds me of what Cape Town’s CBD looked like back in 2002. We have 10 years to catch up within a couple of months. The only way we are going to succeed is by working closely with all departments in the City of Cape Town, SAPS and very important, with all landlords in the VRCID,” says Bock.
“Landlords need to clamp down on over-crowding and illegal activities in their buildings and mustn’t allow their buildings to deteriorate in terms of safety and security, and fire and health regulations. Unfortunately many landlords have allowed this, which is a shame – they can’t expect to just collect rent and do nothing to manage their property.
“We will work closely with the City to identify such properties and landlords and will assist the City in any way we can to take the necessary legal action against such landlords. All landlords need to be part of the solution and not the problem. We won’t hesitate to name and shame errant landlords, as we know we have the support of all landlords that operate within the law in the VRCID.”
Bock says it’s important to remember that the VRCID, like all CIDs, in no way takes over the responsibilities of the City or SAPS or other bodies.
“We provide top up services, paid for by CID levy payers for over and above services that must still be provided by the City and other service providers. The VRCID will employ additional street cleaners to clean the streets and collect illegal dumping. It will provide additional private security officers and patrol vehicles to patrol the VRCID 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Micro urban management is very important. The VRCID’s budget is small compared to other much smaller CIDs although the VRCID’s footprint is possibly the largest CID in Cape Town.”
Bock is well-known for his no nonsense and zero tolerance approach towards crime and grime issues, which include illegal dumping of refuse by businesses or informal traders, anti-social behaviour, aggressive begging and petty theft.
He says his first priority will be to put additional security and cleansing teams on the street in support of the authorities and the public. He believes that once the basics are in place the rest will follow.
“We will also foster relations with NGOs working in the VRCID to address the issue of homelessness. I am on record as saying that homelessness is not a crime, but being homeless does not give any person the right to aggressively beg, harass members of the public, litter or urinate on the streets. As part of our commitment towards providing jobs for the homeless in the area, we will request our security and cleansing service providers to train and possibly employ those who have made the grade. Part of the programme will be to have unemployed people clean public spaces, remove illegal posters and do minor paint works through an NGO and at the same time earn a living. The success of an NGO such as Straatwerk in the Cape Town CBD – a NG Church faith based organisation with its head office in Parow – needs to be emulated in the Voortrekker Road Corridor.”
The message will be very clear – whether you are a landlord, an informal trader or office worker, the City has by-laws and everyone is required to abide by these. No one is above the law, whether you are eight or 80 years old.
“We are open for business,” says Bock. “I would strongly encourage big businesses to invest in the VRCID. In a year or two, property prices will increase as they have done in all other CIDs, especially those of the Central City, Green Point and Sea Point and Claremont. There is nothing preventing Voortrekker Road from becoming a second Main Road like in Claremont – moving from rundown to a thriving business node. The VRCID will make it clean and safe but businesses need to invest in Voortrekker Road and adjacent areas; that is our challenge to them.
“Leading the pack are the Foschini Group, which is expanding its offices in Voortrekker Road, and New Property Ventures’ building, which houses the Bellville branch of Capitec Bank, and has already had plans approved for additional office space.
“Since being appointed COO, I have fielded calls daily from people who want to invest in Voortrekker Road as bargains are still to be had here,” says Bock.
The VRCID board consists of the three founding members – Hardus Zevenster, chief executive of Radio Tygerberg; Piet Badenhorst, an attorney and chairman of AHI Western Cape; and Gert Snyman, a businessman and landlord. Bock says more people will be approached to join the VRCID board in due course.