Durban’s filthy forgotten building
By Duncan Guy 35m ago
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Durban – Raw sewage leaking through ceilings, blatant drug dealing, overcrowding and no running water for 10 years.
These are part of everyday life in a “forgotten building” where the service delivery has vanished as arrears, differences among residents, an ombudsman hearing and lack of attention from government agencies, have contributed to a messy mix.
Raw sewage from a flat upstairs leaks through the ceiling of Elizabeth Bunting’s home in Melbourne Court, Congella.
“It has even caused pieces of concrete to fall off. It would be dangerous if they dropped down into the road,” she told the Independent on Saturday.
“And I cover my stove with plastic.”
She said two people who live above her are partly responsible for her awful situation. She claimed they are mentally challenged and, due to deaths in their family, have had no one to keep an eye on them for the past two years.
“I even go up to their place sometimes and put paper down on the floor.”
Various state agencies have paid scant attention to the matter, said Bunting, a retired lecturer.
She said they often passed the buck from one to another. Her latest hope has been with the provincial departments of health and social services.
“I don’t know where to go, who to turn to,” said Bunting, adding that she was constantly in and out of hospital with a health condition related to her living conditions.
In 2011, the eThekwini Municipality kept six flats in Melbourne Court and sold the remainder of 64 to residents who, while having title deeds, have lived with ongoing deterioration around them.
Bunting’s flat, which she owns and has lived in for 30 years, is in what is believed to be a former military building. Occupants have their own toilets and baths in communal ablutions on their floors. Bunting’s toilet and bathroom also suffer the raw sewage leaks from above.
She said the noise from upstairs was unbearable.
Melbourne Court has not had running water for more than a decade except for a single outlet in a courtyard.
Buckets and bottles of water, with containers filled with detergents, occupy much of the floor space in Bunting’s flat and her toilet and bathroom.
“It is so important to try to keep clean, so I pay the unemployed youth R5 a time to fetch water (from a downstairs tap),” she said.
Meanwhile residents have been divided over how to deal with their living conditions.
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said education on sectional titles lay at the root of the problem.
Law student Junior Prepcy, who has lived in Melbourne Court all his life, said the arrival of Shane Bruwer as a court-appointed administrator in 2018 had brought hope and optimism to residents. However, that relationship turned sour, with Bruwer saying 80% of residents had not paid their levies and Prepcy saying there was no point in doing so in the absence of service delivery.
A matter is pending before the sectional title development ombudsman.
“The bottom line is you cannot do anything in that building until everyone is paying their levies,” said Bruwer, confirming that he had received a letter from the ombudsman to attend an adjudication hearing. He would not comment further.
Meanwhile, Prepcy, in an effort to make his home more liveable, became a trustee on a board that residents elected in an initiative driven by the youth in the building.
“Now, we are trying our level best with resources we have accumulated to help.”
However, there is concern in the building about the legal status of the youth body.
Prepcy said he had found the administrator dismissive when he tried to communicate with him. He also said squatters had moved in when word got out that the administrator had said he would not set foot in the building.
Bruwer denied both these accusations. He also said the building was so run down that a fire department check would cause its closure and that no insurers were willing to insure it.
“People go into the building to urinate and defecate. I pay the salary of the cleaner who has to clean it every day.”
Prepcy said the building was crying out “God please help me”.
Residents have also found little help and much passing of the buck in their approaches to the departments of social service, health, police, metro police and the municipality, none of which responded to the Independent on Saturday with comment on issues at Melbourne Court.
Heather Rorick, who chairs the Bulwer safety forum and the executive citizen policing forum linked to Umbilo police station, said Melbourne Court was one of a number of buildings in which flats had been sold to residents, many of whom were in arrears and often unable to afford to look after the buildings as well. They have since deteriorated.
She said that very often the few good tenants had the buildings’ problems lumped on them.
“They are forgotten buildings,” she said.
The Independent on Saturday