Krugersdorp elderly 'sitting ducks' for criminals

2015-06-05 05:40
(Mpho Raborife, News24)

(Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - A group of pensioners surrounded by a prison, a cemetery and an open field have described to News24 how neglected they feel by their municipality Mogale City and police in the area.

Three couples living at the Pioneer Home in Krugersdorp on the West Rand have described how vulnerable they are and feel like sitting ducks for criminals who target the council-owned complex.

John, 74 and Jeanette Campbell, 68, have been living at Pioneer home for the past two years. They had their car stolen in front of their home by a group of young men in December after throwing a small party.

"It was in the afternoon, I had visitors here and after they left I took the glasses and stuff to the kitchen, my husband went to lie in bed and as you walk in the bedroom, there's a big window and you can see the outside," Jeanette says.

"I shouted 'Car Johnnie! There our car is going!' and he thought I was lying because I always make jokes and he jumped up, and slowly the car went out the [gate] and it was gone."

Jeanette said the robbers even waved at the couple as they exited the complex in the car.

"In another instance, we got up one morning and the whole front window of our car was smashed in. We didn't hear a thing," she said. "I don't know how they get it right."

Constantly on edge

The Campbells had moved to the complex because of the cheap rates and to find a place where they would have less stress, but she found that they were constantly on edge because of the threats surrounding them.

When you look outside the Campbell's backdoor, you stare directly at the western wing of the Krugersdorp Centre for Correctional Services. Directly behind their complex is a cemetery which they describe as a "haven" for criminals and homeless individuals.

"Every night my boys phone [and ask] 'Is the back safety door locked? Is the front safety door locked?'"

She said there were residents much older than them who were even more vulnerable to the criminal elements in the area, who also needed to feel safe in their homes.

"It's dangerous here, you've got to be on the lookout."

Cars stolen

A total of 4 cars, including theirs, have been stolen from the complex in the past 6 months, she said.

She joked about how her husband had resorted to chaining the car to a pole, installing an alarm and a car mobiliser. Jeanette's garden also had to be destroyed in order to create a parking space directly underneath the couple's bedroom window.

"It is a lot of worries a person has here, I'm scared now. I don't want anything to happen again. My husband can't do anything now, he's 75."

John said it was a disgrace that criminals viewed the elderly as easy targets.

Lucille, 53, and Peter Karam, 52, who have been living at the complex since February, woke up to find their car halfway out the gate two weeks after they had moved in.

"My neighbour came to the door, she said 'Listen please, come out quickly, your car is almost out by the gate'," Lucille says.

"They'd broken the whole gear already, because we had a gear lock on the car, they pushed the gear lever down, they broke the gear lever and they pushed the car to the gate and they couldn't get it out, it was parked there... Just before 6 o'clock or after 6 in the morning," her husband Peter adds.

Neighbourhood watch

The couple moved to the complex because of the low rent rate. They pay R300 monthly, buy their own electricity and get free water.

Pioneer House has a total of 13 flats. The residents all know one another and alert one another about the goings on in the complex.

When standing outside on the main road it is clear that there is minimal security at the complex. The walls are about 1m high, and the small rusted gates are kept locked after 17:00 using a short chain and a thick padlock.

At the back of the complex there are rows of rusted locked doors used as storage units. There are no garages on the property for residents' vehicles.

One couple had their storage unit broken into, part of what was stolen was a heater they are yet to find the means to replace, despite the winter slowly creeping in.

Oldest couple

Bill, 85, and Maria Thomas, 72, are the oldest couple at the complex. This is their 15th year living at Pioneer Home.

The couple lives on a monthly pension grant of about R1420 each.

Maria says the only reason they have stayed at the home for so long is because they cannot afford to rent a flat.

"Well it's cheaper here, we can't afford a flat. We'll never afford a flat."

Paint has peeled off the walls in her bathroom due to a geyser which burst many years ago. She says she has tried numerous times to get the municipality to repaint the room, to no avail.

"For the last 14 years all we've been hearing is that we must wait for the next year's budget. But they're not interested, they're not.

"We pay R266 [for rent a month] and we pay for our own electricity. We've got to pay rent, we've got to pay for the lights, we've got to pay for the car - the car doesn't run on water."

A 'losing game'

The ceiling in her bedroom often leaks when it rains, this is another issue she raised with the municipality, she says.

"It's bad, it is really bad and every year when I approach them, they tell me 'When the next budget comes up' and every year I'm on their backs but... it is a losing game really, it is the same old story. I really get mad when I hear 'The next budget'.''

Mogale City spokesperson Nkosana Zali could not immediately comment on the matter. He was waiting for feedback from department officials who were investigating the matter.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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