Broken libraries, clinics disrupt services

2017-05-02 06:01

The City of Cape Town’s social services directorate is counting the cost of continual vandalism and theft at some of its most important service centres.

Since July last year, libraries and clinics have submitted 118 insurance claims, totalling nearly R800 000 – largely as a result of theft, malicious damage to property, and burglaries. Of the claims by clinics, only 12% were the result of accidental damage like burst geysers and pipes.

“Vandalism of community facilities is problematic for a number of reasons. Not only does it disrupt vital services to some of the most vulnerable individuals in a community, but it also has an impact on staff and community morale. It leaves the City in the position where we have to stall new developments and improvements planned for our clinics and libraries because we’re having to divert funds to fix and replace vandalised or stolen infrastructure,” says JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security, and social ­service.

He adds that the theft of cables and computers disadvantage residents.

“The delay in regaining connection is particularly long in cases where the Tel­kom cables are stolen. Many people rely on our library computers and free internet service to look for jobs and for correspondence learning, and the lack of connection has a massive impact on their lives. We are rolling out broadband infrastructure to our libraries as quickly as possible in the hope that it will reduce the risk of cable theft in future,” says Smith.

The City’s health department submitted 60 claims by 31 facilities between July last year and April, totalling just under R400 000. During the same period the previous year, the department submitted 104 claims for over R750 000. Nyanga Clinic has accounted for 11 of the claims.

The City’s library and information services department has submitted 58 claims, totalling nearly R380 000, between July last year and April. Delft Library has amassed 10 claims in this time, and while Hanover Park Library has only submitted three claims, these amounted to R130 000.

This compared to 115 claims totalling R670 000 over the same months in the previous year and 208 claims totalling R1.4m in the year before that.

“The statistics offer a glimmer of hope that our constant appeals to the public to report suspicious behaviour are not in vain, but there is a long road still to walk,” says Smith.

A pilot project in Nyanga and Gugulethu sees 50 neighbourhood watch members and eight auxiliary Law Enforcement officers employed to protect City facilities.

“These results bode well for the expansion of this project to other areas going forward in the coming financial year. Recreation and parks department staff at the Gugulethu sports complex told me that the deployment of the facility protection officers has completely changed the atmosphere at the venue and their focus can now be on running programmes with the youth and not looking over their shoulder at the front door to see whether criminals are sneaking in.

“Many communities know who the thieves and vandals are, but turn a blind eye. I challenge residents to out these individuals,” adds Smith.

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