Thieves rip out the soul of old Natalspruit Hospital

2014-10-26 15:00

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The old Natalspruit Hospital is being taken apart piece by piece. Copper cables, manhole covers and items of furniture are being carried out of the derelict building by gangs of scavenging thieves.

Mbangwa Xaba, the spokesperson for Gauteng’s department of infrastructure development, took City Press on a tour of the deserted hospital in Katlehong on Joburg’s East Rand. The hospital has been operating for more than 60 years and finally closed its doors in August.

In the eerie passages, wires that have been ripped from ceilings to be stripped of their copper hang loose.

Open manholes pockmark the sprawling property – their covers can fetch up to R300 apiece.

Xaba said: “There were all sorts of things left here when the hospital closed down. The doors are broken and latches have been removed as people break into the hospital to see what they can take. Everything is for sale.”

In one room, an ancient sewing machine is slowly being stripped of its metal parts. In the outlying passages, light coverings have been smashed and cables removed.

A huge floodlight outside the hospital has also been knocked over and stripped of screws and copper cables.

The department has not been able to evaluate the hospital since it closed down because it first had to be “decontaminated” by health officials.

Now that has been done, the department will approach residents in the area for suggestions on how the property can best be used to benefit the community.

Xaba’s department has employed private security guards to patrol the grounds.

But a security guard, who did not want to be named, said that 50-strong criminal gangs regularly descend on the building to rip it apart. He and his colleagues are battling to stem the tide.

“These nyaope addicts come to the hospital and overpower us. When the last incident happened, I had to take a taxi to call the police. The gangs sell what they steal to the scrapyards in the area,” he said.

He said that even the police were afraid to venture into the hospital.

Xaba said his department was looking to boost security, while it was finalising plans for the 115-hectare estate.

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