Vagrants defile post office

2017-03-06 11:33
A file photograph of the post office in Langalibalele Street. INSET: (top) Vagrants sleep in the entrance of the post office in Langalibalele street. (bottom) The cracked wall and sign at the entrance to the post office in Langalibalele Street.

A file photograph of the post office in Langalibalele Street. INSET: (top) Vagrants sleep in the entrance of the post office in Langalibalele street. (bottom) The cracked wall and sign at the entrance to the post office in Langalibalele Street. (Ian Carbutt/ File)

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Vagrants squatting at the historical main post office in Pietermaritzburg have turned the entrance of the 114-year-old building into a “dump”.

Local business people and frequent visitors to the post office in the CBD say they have found vagrants urinating, defecating and engaged in sexual intercourse at the covered entrance of the building.

Blankets, mattresses and other items can be found piled up in a corner of the building during the day and are unpacked and laid out during the night.

It is believed the vagrants, most of whom are openly taking whoonga and other drugs, were moved from Hesom Street near the old Upper Crust Bakery.

The vagrants were cleared from the area by police and municipal security recently but were not placed in shelters or homes.

“Those people are now sqautting by the post office and creating a huge mess and destroying a beautiful heritage site,” said a businessman whose offices are near the post office.

The businessman did not want to be named for fear of victimisation.

He said the entrance to the post office is “over-run” by the vagrants who sleep on the veranda.

“They urinate in the open and use cardboard boxes to defecate in and then throw it in the concrete bins,” said the businessman.

He said it was sad to see a building so immense in architectural value left to decay.

A more serious problem, the businessman said, was the fires lit by the vagrants during the night. He said the road was extremely busy and often “more than eight cars block the entrance leaving no space for a fire engine to attend to a serious fire”.

The post office is also a service access to the Old Victoria Club building and, should a fire get out of control, it would engulf both buildings.

A frequent user of the main post office, only known as Gwala, said he is afraid of being mugged when fetching his post.

Gwala said he often checks his post box at around 6.45 am.

“I have to almost climb over them [vagrants] to get to my box and when I collect my parcels, they watch me and I am always afraid that they will assault me and rob me,” he said.

Gwala said he found males and females sleeping together on the veranda of the building and questioned whether Msunduzi Municipality’s security unit is doing anything about the problem.

“The problem of vagrants occupying public spaces is throughout the city but it is even sadder to see a beautiful old building turn ugly like this,” he said.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha was on sick leave and could not respond to questions.

When contacted, Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo said he would try to arrange a meeting with the Department of Social Development to make an arrangement to place the vagrants into homes.

“We cannot do this alone so the department must advise us in how to approach this problem of vagrants,” Njilo said.

Did you know?

• The main post office in Pietermaritzburg situated in Langalibalele Street is a provincial heritage site.

• The civic building was designed in the grand manner by architect
William Lucas for Sir Herbert Baker who was a British architect. Baker
is remembered as the dominant force in South African architecture for two decades, and a major designer of some of New Delhi’s most notable government structures.

• The post office was opened in 1903 during the Edwardian era.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  post office building

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