Vacant school building causing headaches

Cornelius Jaftha at the part of the building being used by the community.

An old school building in Marius Street in Lotus River is causing distress to residents who want it to be demolished or transformed into a business and activity hub.

Many years ago the building housed Parkwood High School and the Al-Azhar Primary School was based there for 20 years, up until about two years ago, before moving to Mitchell’s Plain.

Half of the premises is being used by 14 community and church organisations under the Ottery People Centre (OPC) and other organisations while the other half is vacant.

Criminals and thieves have vandalised the deserted building on the border of Ottery and stole pipes, wiring and other valuable items. They have also vandalised the classrooms, office block and toilets.

Community workers have called on the Department of Transport and Public Works, who are in charge of the building, to lease it to them to use as a recreational and community space.

Christo Williams from the Ottery Welfare Network said proposals to the department have not yielded positive results.

“Since the building became vacant I have sent the department a proposal but have not heard back from them. There are various initiatives and programmes being run in the area but we need the space to benefit the community. We have the manpower, plan and leadership, we just need the space,” said Mr Williams.

“We were told that the space will go on auction to be leased and then we must apply through that process. There was supposed to be a site visit but this never happened. That was last year and in the meantime the building has been vandalised even more,” said Mr Williams.

Wade Mathews said a plan needs to be put in place. “The space can be used for good things but the department would rather let the building be destroyed than to be used by the community.”

Cornelius Jaftha said they have had a good working relationship with the department who has leased the other half of the school to the OPC for over 40 years.

“We run various programmes, creches and churches from the building but feel that we can do so much more with the buildings that have been vandalised. Those spaces can be utilised for good, instead of being broken down and vandalised by criminals,” he said.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, MEC for transport and public works, said the department is aware that the building has been vandalised.

“A security service provider was appointed to secure the building.

“There is currently no need for the utilization of the building in terms of the Western Cape Government’s service delivery objectives and the community can submit their application for the leasing of the building to the department for consideration,” he said.

“The plan was to advertise the building for leasing-out but an inspection to assess its condition determined that the building is derelict and one of the options being considered, due to its condition, was the demolition thereof,” said Mr Madikizela.

He said that due to the attempted unlawful invasion of the property during housing protests last year the department has obtained an interdict against such occupation.