Burnt building must fall

Community members have called on authorities to either secure or demolish the condemned building in Caledon Street, which was set alight during Fees Must Fall protests last year.

The building, owned by CPUT, has since not been repaired, and is now being used as a haven for criminals who hide in the gutted structure and attack people, including students, who walk by.

The building, which housed CPUT’s Centre for Professional Personal Development, was torched by students at the height of the Fees Must Fall campaign last year, where protests became violent and chaotic.

The building has been condemned by the City’s fire safety office and the fence which was put up to secure it has been broken.

The issue with the structure came to light when a neighbour raised concern about robberies and attacks happening on the site.

The neighbour, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said the building is being used by thieves and to attack passersby in the early hours of the morning, which includes both citizens on their way to work as well as students en route to the IT centre.

“The screams for help and thundering blows by those being attacked and robbed, especially between midnight and 6pm, is out of control.”

The neighbour said CPUT should take responsibility for the safety of their students, and, because their students had vandalised the building, they should contract security or better secure it.

“I suggest that either this fire ravaged condemned building be secured or that it be demolished as soon as possible, as currently it is used by criminals to hide so that they can launch attacks on unsuspecting victims passing by.”

Shanie Boshof, the CEO of ACVV, which has a home adjacent to the gutted building, said management is concerned about their residents and staff. The home cares for 106 senior citizens, about 200 children and 45 mentally challenged people.

“We have unfortunately had physical attacks of two staff members in the last few months in the early morning hours that were reported to the SAPS.”

Ms Boshof, said the environment is not conducive for safety and has regressed with the collapsing of the building.

“As we care for vulnerable people, the ACVV-Centre in Cape Town strongly supports any action to upgrade this eyesore and unsafe building, as well as other actions to enhance the safety of people walking past and living in the neighbourhood.”

Cape Town Central police station spokesman, Captain Ezra October, said the police are aware of the problem. They have received complaints about the building, which include vagrancy, fires being lit and unscrupulous criminal activity such as drug peddling.

“The sector managers and various shift members do visit the building site on a daily basis due to the concerns. Destitute people are currently using the building as residence.”

Captain October said the police are constantly searching and cleaning up the building, and will continue holding integrated crime prevention operations with Law Enforcement and other security role-players.

However, the spokeswoman for CPUT, Lauren Kansley, said while the university anticipates that the building will be demolished, they are at the mercy of a lengthy insurance claim assessment that needs to be wrapped up before a final decision can be made.

“In the interim, measures to secure the building was taken like boarding the entrances and windows and clearing the site. This has needed to be done on more than one occasion since the boards have been stolen and securing the site remains an ongoing issue since the building is in a public area which is easily accessible.” She said the concerns will be raised with CPUT’s security and management forums as a matter of urgency.

Captain October said a case file had been opened by the City’s Problem Building Unit, who will investigate the complaint before declaring it a Problem Building.

Mayoral committee member for safety, security; and social services, JP Smith, said ideally, the City would like to address issues before any property reaches a state of total degradation. However, he said, the Problem Building Unit relies heavily on complaints from the public. Residents are advised to report any concerns to the unit or the City’s central call centre number: 0860 103 089.

“Officers will conduct an inspection to ascertain whether the property in question falls within the definition of a problem building. However, before a building can be declared a ‘problem building’, the officers have to inform the owner in writing of their intention and give them an opportunity to make representations about why the declaration should not happen.”

He said where buildings are declared “problem buildings” the owner is served with a compliance notice to effect the necessary repairs/clean up to the satisfaction of the City within a specified period. If the owner fails to adhere to the compliance notice, the City may do the repairs and clean up and recover the costs from the owner. “Once a building has been declared a problem building and added to the declared problem building list, the owner of such property will be charged a R5 000 monthly tariff until such property has been removed from the declared problem building list.”