High price of looting

Residents are concerned about the safety of children who are using the dilapidated community centre in Parkwood as a playground.

The Parkwood community centre and Parkwood housing office were gutted in May during violent protests by residents who were demanding housing from the City of Cape Town and national government.

It will cost roughly R6 million to rebuild the public facilities.

The centre was used for community meetings, local events, after-school and holiday programmes and was a recreation hub.

Youngsters are now playing soccer where the community centre used to be.

Ward councillor William Akim’s Parkwood office was also situated at the premises in Walmer Road.

The buildings were stripped of wires, taps, roof sheets, aluminium window frames and other internal fixtures and doors.

The fencing was also removed and when Southern Mail visited the site last week people started carrying away loose bricks from the buildings with wheelbarrows.

Children and young men made use of the space and played soccer amid the broken walls .

Mr Akim said the destruction of the facility has had long-lasting consequences.

“We couldn’t have the usual school holiday programmes. People had to go to the Plumstead housing office or elsewhere to pay their municipal bills and for housing enquiries. Residents were coming to my house because my office was burnt down. The impact has been tremendous but we are doing all we can to fast-track the planning to rebuild the facility,” said Mr Akim.

Stuart Diamond, mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, said official records were also destroyed during the protests.

He said it had been the City’s intention to barricade the office but before that could happen, it was stripped.

Concerned resident Judith David said every day young children play at the broken-down building.

“I have called the City and I have tried to tell the children that they shouldn’t play there but when one group leaves, another returns. The City needs to put up a fence or throw the walls down. We don’t want a child to get hurt first for them to do something,” said Ms David.

JP Smith, the City’s maycoral commitee member for safety and security; and social services, said the City is identifying suitable funding sources that could possibly be used to reinstate the building.

“This will have to take place while considering relative and competing priorities,” said Mr Smith.

“The provision of services to the community is important and rebuilding the facility will be considered, through a process of prioritisation and approval, subject to available budgets,” he said.

Mr Smith said measures such as signage were put in place to secure the area but have been unsuccessful because they were either ignored or removed from the site.

“The security company deployed at Parkwood community centre has been prevented from continuing services due to community unrest. All law enforcement agencies were forced to vacate the area due to community conflict. We also applied candy tape to cordon off the premises but this has not deterred individuals from gaining access to the building. Any additional physical barriers to prohibit entry would likely be fruitless as the situation with the community remains volatile. City law enforcement continues to patrol the premises regularly in an effort to establish a level of law and order,” he said.

Mr Smith said anyone caught carrying bricks or other things away from the site would be arrested for theft.

He encouraged residents to recognise community centres as extensions of their homes.

“They can organise themselves and speak out against the destruction of these shared facilities, which only exist to serve the interests of the community,” he said.

Mr Diamond said the buildings were insured and an insurance claim has been submitted which is being processed.

He also encouraged residents to deter children from playing in the dilapidated buildings.

“The concerns around the safety of children playing in and around the building is being investigated with the view of finding a solution to address this.

“We also call upon residents who witness this to help correct the behaviour of the children in the interest of their safety,” said Mr Diamond.