People's Post

Family living in storage container

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The City of Cape Town have provided this storage container to house the family.
The City of Cape Town have provided this storage container to house the family.

A Woodlands family is unhappy about the conditions they have been forced to live in while important repair work is conducted in their City-owned flat.

After struggling for months with a bird and vermin infestation, and their calls for repairs resulted in one delay after another, the family called their own contractors in to fix the hole in the roof of the block of flats and called in a pest-control expert to assist in solving the problem.

“My son got letters from his doctors at Red Cross Hospital stating he was allergic and still nothing was done so we decided to fix the hole in the roof ourselves,” said Rochelle Joubert. “It became so bad we decided we had to do it.”

After calling in the pest control contractor the severity of the problem was discovered.

“This is a massive health risk,” Joubert said.

“When our pest control person opened the trap door of the ceiling, we filled a black bag from just from this section. We taped it shut because of the worms falling out. He said the job would cost R10 000, but refused to do the work because it is a health risk.”

Now the City of Cape Town has employed contractors to strip the ceilings of the flat and conduct the needed repair work, but another problem has arisen . . .

The family, made up of five adults and a child, is being made to live in and store their belongings in a three-metre shipping container with no ablution facilities, no running water and no electricity.

Community worker Gabieba Rademeyer said the rent has been constantly increasing without the necessary repairs being done. She says the conditions the family is now being made to live in is an infringement of their rights.

“You cannot go without water, so this is a human rights violation,” she said.

Joubert confirms her family has not had access to water in the flat for more than a year, because her mother Roseline Bailey, in desperation, had decided to halt the rent until the repairs to the property were made.

She has lived in her flat for more than 33 years.

Recently, there was not only an infestation of pigeons in the roof, but also mice, worms, insects and later an infestation of bed bugs as a result of the bird faeces and vermin.

Their private pest-control person estimated around 30 birds had nested and were living in the roof.

This is a problem in most blocks of flats, claim residents in Vulcan Gardens and surrounding blocks of flats.

The concern for the family’s current condition is that there’s no confirmation on how long the work will take, the City’s contractor giving people a different length of time each time.

Joubert said the City’s subcontractor did not have any protective gear when working and borrowed a neighbours bakkie to take away the rubble removed from the flat.

She said their furniture has also been damaged and curtains found in the roof have been thrown over their couches to “protect” them.

“Everything that is covered in those curtains must be thrown away now. We cannot wash or clean them. Those curtains have been in there for years.”

Rachel Vraagom says she also has the same problem in the neighbouring flat. Hers and the other family’s roofs are linked, although there is a dividing wall. She said repair work will not yet be conducted in her section, and she will need to wait. “We struggled for an entire year because our houses were full of bed bugs and there are small bugs that you cannot see,” Vraagom said.

Joubert said: “When you lie you itch constantly. You need to vacuum your beds and curtains.”

The City did not respond at the time of going to print yesterday (29 November), instead saying: “The City is looking into the particulars of the enquiry and will respond in detail in due course.”

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