Hundreds of thousands of rands went to waste after walls for a number of staircases were demolished at the New Hostels in Langa to curb criminal activities.
The walls and the staircases have reportedly been used by criminals as hiding spots and access points to rooms on the upper level of the hostels.
The staircases, reportedly a government plan to renovate or rebuild the dilapidated hostels under the City of Cape Town’s Hostel Transformation Programme to transform the apartheid-era style hostels, were demolished more than two weeks ago.
Gatvol hostel dwellers say crime increased drastically as the staircases offered hiding space for criminals.
The residents claim that the staircases were built in 2004. They demolished them because the government had failed to speed up the building process
Street committee member Zibele Mthotywa said instead of finishing the project, the government was busy with other things.
“As the years continued, crime became an issue here. Imagine when was 2004 when they made these stairs but nothing has been done.
“People in these hotels could not open windows, could not leave their house in the presence of these criminals. The worst was that children were raped here. School children would come from afar to come and smoke drugs here. We could no longer take it,” he told Vukani.
He also claimed that gangs were formed from the criminals’ perch on the stairs.
Mr Mthotywa blamed Langa police for ignoring their calls about criminal activities on the stairs. “Crime was very high – so much so that we appealed to police more than once but they would tell us they cannot arrest them because they found nothing on them.
“They (police) even told us to arrest these children would not help because these were under-aged children,” he said.
Asked why they could not chase them away, Mr Mthotywa said residents respected the law.
“Look we could have simply taken our knobkierries and beat the hell out of them, but we are law-abiding citizens. We respect the law. We could not take the law into our hands, period,” he said.
He said the situation is better now although some of the boys tried to come after the demolition. He said people have lost a lot because of the stairs.
A passer-by Nobuntu Ngqingwa commended the residents. She said it was not easy to pass the hostels before.
“This is long overdue. It was a struggle for people to pass here. It was worse for girls. These children lacked manners. I can safely pass here unlike before. This is a big relief,” she said.
Suzette Little, the mayoral committee member for the City of Cape Town’s Area North, said City officials were informed at the point when the residents were demolishing the staircases.
She the intention was to convert the hostels into family units in the same manner as other converted hostels in the area. She said the relevant department is currently collating the necessary information.
“The Hostels Redevelopment Policy was phased out and replaced by the new Community Residential Units (CRU) Policy at the stage when the conversion was about to start. The change in policy took place at a national level. The project had to be repackaged to conform with the CRU requirements,” she said.
Ms Little said the hostels are still going to be transformed as they form part of Phase 2 of the Langa Hostels Transformation Project. The plan is to demolish the hostels and build new blocks of flats that conform with CRU Policy requirements, she told Vukani.