Cape Town – Business owners in Wynberg are at their wit’s end over the degradation of Ebor Road.
Over the past decade, they have felt helpless as they watched the region gradually deteriorate. They have tried to get the city of Cape Town to act but their cries seem to have gone unrecognized as the issue is still unresolved.
Leif Petersen, co-director of the NPC Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, whose offices are down the road, said Ebor Road has been in disrepair for more than a decade.
“A small group of committed business owners, including ourselves, have invested time, effort and money in our efforts to raise the standard of the region. We painted all the buildings (including a large part of the Uli Heydt building), planted trees and regularly cleaned the street of garbage. Our properties are well maintained and managed. Between ourselves and just two of our neighbors, we provide over 100 jobs, ”said Petersen.
He added that despite this, local conditions in general and Uli Heydt’s building problem threatened their businesses.
“The City has been telling us for eight years that the Uli Heydt building is listed as a problem and that it is working to resolve it. So far in 2020 we have had three break-ins and one aggravated theft. In the last fiscal year, we spent over 40,000 Rand on direct costs related to local crime.
There is a shebeen in the Uli Heydt building who forces us to call the police almost daily. Glass is broken in the street every day. Drunkenness, terrible language and violence have become normal on the road. The living conditions in the Uli Heydt building are absolutely appalling – there are illegal water and electricity connections, people sleeping in poverty, drug use and prostitution, ”Petersen added.
With the building owner allegedly losing control of the premises, Petersen said the city needed to take action to address the issue.
“It is the storage place for stolen goods and is home to criminals and crime. Right now, Wynberg is at a tipping point – if the challenges of problematic building Uli Heydt (among others) are not resolved soon – urban degradation will continue to extend well beyond Ebor Road into the city. larger region and beyond, ”said Petersen.
In 2017, the company worked with all neighbors who wanted to join the Wynberg Improvement District (WID).
“It was rejected by the city. What I learned last week was due to the problem of building owners not registering and thus canceling our application (as an application requires a minimum owner threshold to be ratified). And this despite the fact that I was informed by the head of WID at the time that the city would be doing an exclusion for this circumstance, which motivated us to join WID in the first place, ” said Petersen.
He said the city told them the Uli Heydt building was high on the agenda to be resolved, but they waited more than eight years to see the results.
“The City will not give residents of the Uli Heydt buildings legal water connections or wheelie bins to deal with the waste they create, but that does not prevent them from living in this dangerous building. The City, meanwhile, wants our rates, job creation, economic growth and urban renewal, but we see no action to drive the necessary change.
“To balance and be fair, the City is excellent at sending law enforcement officers and responds well to service requests (waste, sewage, etc.), but that means, at best, that they are coating the cracks. while Wynberg collapses under the weight. of the systemic challenge arising from problem buildings, ”said Petersen.
Recently, the foundation was forced to dig drains to divert gray water from the Uli Heydt slum through their property. They took this route because the amount of water coming out of the slum is so large and uncontrolled that, during the lockdown, it flooded their premises, causing more than 40,000 Rand in damage.
They say they warned the City through their lawyers of this possibility two years ago, and their insurance company then sued the City for the cost of the damage. The city settled out of court.
“The city’s storm / drainage system would have to deal with this, but due to illegal structures built on city property associated with the Uli Heydt building, which the city failed to demolish, they cannot access their infrastructure.
“Either the City should recognize that people live there and provide them with facilities, or condemn the building completely and not let people stay there.” The city’s current approach is non-binding and instead leaves residents in the worst possible living conditions, and the effects of urban degradation are affecting residents, neighbors and all of Wynberg, ”said Petersen.
Les Stain, owner of Stanex Exhaust Practical Solutions, said the state of affairs on the road has cost him some customers as they are afraid to enter the area due to decay and crime.
“Every morning there are these guys smoking marijuana and drinking and then we have to clean up after them and it’s private property,” Stain said.
Washington Mudzingwa, owner of Washington Panel and Spray, also said it has lost customers.
“It’s a big deal because the other day a client of mine came in here and got her necklace caught. I went to the police and asked them if they could help me set up a portable toilet because every morning I collect garbage (excrement) outside here, ”Mudzingwa said.
Wayne Dyason, the city’s law enforcement spokesperson, said the Problem Buildings Unit was aware of these cases and was still ongoing.
“These processes take time and the PBU is currently dealing with 10 cases in Wynberg,” said Dyason.