Vandalism of public facilities increases amid lockdown

The damage caused to ceiling boards at the Athlone library. Burglars gained access to the library by breaking through the roof and the ceiling. They proceeded to steal the facility’s geyser.
The damage caused to ceiling boards at the Athlone library. Burglars gained access to the library by breaking through the roof and the ceiling. They proceeded to steal the facility’s geyser.

A recent break-in at Tokai library was one of 37 community services and health incidents at public facilities reported for the lockdown period from March until May.

Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien says with many facilities closed during the lockdown, criminals have destroyed and looted City of Cape Town infrastructure and assets. The estimated value of all loss incurred is estimated to be just more than R700 000. This excludes the cost of repairs.

“These are still key resources in communities that require access to the internet, health services and sporting spaces when the lockdown ends. They are there for the benefit of our residents and the uncontrolled destruction of these resources must end,” Badroodien says.

The break-in at Tokai library happened over the weekend of Friday 23 to Saturday 24 May. A resident was walking by the Saturday morning and noticed that the glass of one of the emergency exits had been broken. The resident informed the residents’ association who in turn informed the librarian in charge.

It was later determined that the lock of one of the pedestrian gates had been broken. The burglars then broke a window at one of the emergency exits, gaining access to the library.

Badroodien says a television that was mounted on a wall bracket was stolen. In the process of removing the device, the thieves damaged the bracket.

“The television was used for the children’s programmes, especially for the ones from the Westlake community. Assisted storytelling was done with them and movies were shown to children on particular days,” he adds.

The case was reported to the Kirstenhof police station. The item has not been recovered as yet. The investigation is continuing.

The City reports several other libraries were burgled in this period as well, including Bonteheuwel, Nyanga, Athlone and Rocklands. The worst-hit of these was Athlone where geysers were stolen. The carpets were left drenched and the ceiling boards, as well as the roof, were damaged where the culprits gained access.

Other incidents include damage to an air conditioner at the Kraaifontein sports complex, cables worth R300 000 stolen at Monwabisi Resort, pool entrance doors damaged at the Blue Downs swimming pool, and astroturf stolen at the Eulalie Stott Educare Centre in Mitchell’s Plain.

According to Badroodien, closed facilities, necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, are much more vulnerable to vandalism and theft, especially in communities ravaged by additional challenges like unemployment, ongoing hunger and substance abuse.

The City calls on residents to be on the lookout for any suspicious activities at any City facility. “Residents need to take ownership of these facilities and we need to work together to combat the scourge of criminal activity in and around our community spaces,” Badroodien says.

  • To report vandalism, call 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.

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