Vacant land in Windsor West breeds contempt in the community

An informal dwelling is erected by displaced persons on an empty property on Alexander Street and Duchesses Avenue.


Residents of Windsor West fear the spread of displaced people as vacant properties are left for the taking.

Geoff Leach complained about a property on the corner of Alexander Street and Duchesses Avenue.

“When will somebody do something about the people living at corner Alexander and Duchesse [on the] empty plot? The place is a public toilet, [with] shacks, rats coming from the walls and who knows what else,” he said.

The property is surrounded by a wall and a large metal gate. However, it seems displaced people have erected informal dwellings inside the premises. LBL Construction has secured the place for development. Owner Johan Leibbrandt has been contacted for comment, to no avail.

Residents are furious at the state of mess created by the shacks in Windsor West vacant lands.

Ward 98 councillor Beverely Wewejee said that she has been in contact with the owners on multiple occasions in order to resolve the matter. “The gate was stolen the other day, we had it replaced but it seems as if they are now jumping over the walls,” said Wewejee.

This is one of three properties in Windsor West that have become a thorn in the side of the community.

Ward 98 councillor Beverley Wewejee stands in front of a problematic empty plot on Alexander Street and Duchesses Avenue.

Further down Alexander Street is yet another empty piece of land that was recently cleared out by the City of Johannesburg. Wewejee explained that the place was filled with rubbish, informal dwellings and human waste. A portion of the wall has been knocked down which allowed for the comings and goings of the people that called it home.

“Those living here before would light fires which, at one point, set alight the whole back side of the property resulting in neighbouring private land being in danger,” added Wewejee.

A once beautiful house on Alexander Street and Princesses Avenue has been reduced to rubbish and filth.

The third problematic property on Alexander Street and Princesses Avenue used to be a beautiful house, said local resident Judy Drapper. “You should have seen what this house used to look like, it is such a shame that it has been reduced to rubble and a place for vagrancy.”

Sadly the property has indeed been left to rot. Evidence of a once large swimming pool is still visible. This too creates dangers for those living on the property. Large mounds of sand are scattered around, covering up much of the pool. It would be easy for anyone to walk around and fall into the seven-foot deep empty swimming pool.

Ward 98 councillor Beverley Wewejee with concerned resident Judy Drapper in front of an abandoned property in Windsor West.

Drapper, who has lived in Windsor West for 29 years, is extremely worried about the ever encroaching dilapidation in the suburb. “This area is in the perfect location. It is situated close to the highway, big shopping centres and schools; I fear that it may turn into the crime infested Windsor East if nothing is done about it soon.”

City of Johannesburg weighs in

The City’s Public Safety MMC, Michael Sun, paid a visit to the area in February. In a heated meeting, it became clear that drug abuse, overcrowding, constant noise pollution and illegal street vendors add to the many problems residents of Windsor deal with.

It is a sad reality for the communities of Windsor West and Windsor East that vacant properties are the least of their problems. Crime is rife with drug dealers roaming the streets freely and illegal evictions which result in these properties then being used as drug dens.

The City’s Executive Mayor, Herman Mashaba “I have, therefore, instructed the City’s legal team to investigate these allegations, provide a report on the matter and advise on how to proactively begin addressing this problem.”

The City’s group forensic team is also going to intensify areas for raids in these communities to profile the size of the problem, the mayor said. “I believe the biggest problems will be resolved once the property issues have been solved. We are currently in the process of identifying problem properties and to take the relevant [action],” Wewejee explained.

Displaced people burn fires at night which is a health and safety hazard.


A displaced person shields his face with a piece of paper in the distance at an abandoned property on Alexander Street and Princesses Avenue in Windsor West.


A second empty property on Alexander Street which was recently cleared out by the City.

Additional reporting by Chantelle Fourie.

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Ashtyn Mackenzie

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