Thugs rob elders

Phumla Ndaba shows Vukani the damage caused by the thieves.

Members of Noluthando Seniors’ Club, in New Crossroads, have been left to deal with serious safety concerns after their offices were broken into during the night on June 14.

The break-in has led to a halt of operations at the centre, putting pensioners’ lives at risk.

The club is home to more than 60 pensioners from New Crossroads and the surrounding communities. It provides them with daily meals and health tips, including exercise.

The club also provides pensioners with a platform to showcase their crafts by producing bead work. It is one of many clubs under Ikamva Labantu. Several items including a three burner gas stove, From page 1

normally used to cook for big functions, four heaters, all the gardening tools, including a wheelbarrow, a microwave and groceries estimated at more than R3 000, were stolen. Thieves gained entry to the facility by removing some of the wooden panels at the back of the structure and breaking down an inside ceiling covering the wall. It is believed they then opened the facility’s main entrance to remove the loot.

The first pensioner to arrive at the club on Wednesday June 15, Eunice Ngxazisa, who is also the club’s chairperson, said she thought the facility was not locked the previous day. “All the inside doors were opened,” she said. However, when she checked with another staff member, who worked on Tuesday, she was assured everything was locked. As she inspected further, she realised there was a break-in.

“All the drawers in the office and cupboard doors were opened,” she said.

As she moved further into the kitchen and the storeroom she realised that a number of items were missing.

“I called for help because it was just too much to handle,” said Ms Ngxazisa. With more members coming in they began assessing the situation and looking for missing items. Their biggest disappointment was when they phoned Gugulethu police for assistance and to open a case. The police allegedly refused to come, instead instructing the pensioners to “count” the damage. “We waited for the police until today (Tuesday June 21 ). On the day of the incident I left here at 3.30pm and they never came,” said Ms Ngxazisa. “We now have nowhere to go.”

Phumla Ndaba, co-ordinator for the 19 Ikamva Labantu clubs, said they decided to move the remaining items to a safer place while looking for solutions. “This is the second break-in in three months. The pensioners do not feel safe,” she said.

“This is the last hope for them, most of them are abused at home. Here they feel safe, they are well looked after, but that is now changing. If they (the thieves) can do this at night, it means they can do it at any time.”

Ms Ndaba said they were looking for help to store their items and possibly a permanent structure to operate from. The current structure is made of wood planks and is vulnerable to break-ins. She also called on the community to play an active role in protecting the facility. “At the end it belongs to the community and the children who did this are ours, so we have to find a solution,” said Ms Ndaba.

Ms Ngxazisa added that in the six years she has been part of the club they never had any problems.

“I am now scared to be here. Yesterday, Monday June 20, I went to the clinic and my blood pressure was very high,” she said.

“When I came here six years ago I found friends and happiness, but that is now gone. This is a decent place that helps elderly people. When you are here you don’t hear anything about what is happening in the community, you only get that when you go home in the evening. There is no stress.”

Councillor Luvuyo Zondani said his hands were tied on the matter, but he urged the community to rise up and take a stand against crime and criminals. He said the entire neighbourhood was in chaos because of crime.

Mr Zondani said the best solution for the facility would be a 24-hour security or a permanent building.

“It is chaos all over Sub-council 14. This is not an isolated incident, there is crime everywhere. We are still ‘lucky’ to have a break-in happening once a month. Thugs are breaking in every where and people are robbed at gunpoint. In some cases they remove door frames. There is very little support coming from the police,” he said. “The thugs are also known in the community, but people are concerned about their safety.”

Mr Zondani called for mass mobilisation of the community to fight crime and assist places such as Noluthando.

Vukani tried to get comment from Gugulethu police but received no response by the time this edition went to print.