Even soldiers are nervous near abandoned Durban North buildings

2014-04-16 00:00

SO bad are crime and vagrancy at abandoned army buildings in Durban North that even soldiers based nearby quake in their boots.

The neglected army buildings dating back to WW2 pose security and health risks for nearby residents in Gleneagles Drive, Durban North.

South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers who spoke to The Witness yesterday said they are also concerned about the dilapidated watch tower, bunker and two other buildings at Marine Quarters.

Vagrants have since taken over the buildings, tearing them apart for electric and copper wires. They also use them as a “storage facility” for recyclable material like bottles and tins.

A wire fence divides the unkempt land and the temporary residential structures for SANDF employees who were moved to the area about nine months ago pending a R50 million upgrade at their barracks in the same area in Norrie Avenue, near the Beachwood Doggy Walk Trail.

An army employee, who asked not to be named, said the buildings date back to WW2 and have since been neglected for years.

“We are concerned about the safety of our children because the occupants steal electric and copper cables. We don’t know what they get up to in those buildings, especially when they are in the middle of the overgrowth,” said the employee.

Genevieve Moore, who has been residing in Gleneagles for 27 years, said the buildings were an eyesore and that their home security had been compromised. She said over the past four or five years residents have raised their concerns with various departments trying to find out who was responsible for the buildings.

“There has been contention about the buildings over the years. The Public Works Department and the military must deal with the problem. All our efforts to try and fix this are unsuccessful. I’ve sent e-mails to Public Works with pictures attached to show the authorities how bad things were. The last e-mail was sent last week but I haven’t had any response,” said Moore.

She said there were two fires in one of the buildings in one week, but the fires were put out quickly. “With winter approaching, one wonders how many more fires will have to be put out in the area,” she said.

Area councillor Dean Macpherson said it was the Department of Public Works and the defence force’s responsibility to sort out the problem. “This is a health risk to those living in the barracks and for residents. The departments must decide if they want to restore the buildings as attractions because as they stand, they are just concrete walls,” said Macpherson.

Thamsanqa Mchunu, a national Department of Public Works spokesperson, said the SANDF was responsible for the buildings.

“The National Department of Public Works maintains government properties on behalf of client departments. So, any work that is done on government properties is done only on the instruction of a client department,” said Mchunu. SANDF spokesperson Thamsanqa Mchunu said they will comment once they get information from the Durban unit.

‘Residents must complain directly to municipality’

ETHEKWINI Mayor James Nxumalo, when interviewed by The Witness yesterday, urged residents to complain directly to the municipality.

He said that Metro Police had been aware of the vagrancy problems in the area but were not aware of the scale of the problem.

“This sounds serious because I’m told the buildings are very close to people’s homes. We can only intervene once residents write a formal letter detailing the situation. We as the municipality will be able to trace whoever owns the buildings. It is our endeavour to attend to all the old buildings around eThekwini in whatever necessary way,” said Nxumalo.

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