Criminals have infested an abandoned building next to a daycare centre in the North-West, creating fear and discomfort for the toddlers and their carers.
From theft of the toddlers’ groceries and electricity, which resulted in their missing meals, to malicious damage to property, the toddlers live in constant fear, says Adele Joya, the principal of the daycare centre, Thabong Crèche 1 in Jouberton Township.
The abandoned building, which is right next to the crèche, was once used as a guesthouse for politicians pre-1994 and a fire station post-1994. Today the building has become a hide-out for criminals. It does not have windows, doors and roofing and used condoms are found strewn all over the yard.
Joya said they do not feel safe. “Criminals from the abandoned building once jumped over the fence and stole groceries from us. They also stole an electricity cable. We were without electricity and could not cook meals for our children. We had to fix the cable at our own expense.”
Joya added that the centre was no longer getting a subsidy from the Department of Social Development because they were finding a new contractor. She said the centre paid for repairs out of the school fees and some employees had to take a pay cut for a few months.
On investigation, Ourhealth found out that the abandoned building was owned by the municipality of the city of Matlosana. The gates to the yard of the building were locked with a chain and padlocks. The building was known as the ‘Guest House’ before 1994 when it was owned by the apartheid government and used to house visiting politicians. In those days, according to people who remember it, it looked like a luxury hotel. After 1994, the new government used it as a fire station, but about ten years ago it was vacated and left empty.[quote float = right]criminals once jumped over the fence and almost hurt children on the playground but teachers intervened.”
Police slow to respond
Joya said she had complained many times to the police but nothing had been done to date. She said that the centre has had to invest in security doors and an alarm system to protect the children.
Residents living close to the centre claimed that criminals used drugs inside the building. They said they had complained many times to the police and municipality but “nothing gets done”.
Bukelwa Galane, who lives close by, said “criminals once jumped over the fence and almost hurt children on the playground but teachers intervened. The building is a hiding place for criminals. People do bad things in those buildings. Sometimes at night we hear screams”.
Another resident, an 86-year-old man who did not want to be named, said he had called the municipality twice regarding the building but “the people in charge of public buildings are always in meetings. I also once called the police to report the theft of windows and roofing”.
“The municipality is to blame because it is not maintaining its buildings,” he said.
The residents and the principal said that the only solution was for the building to be rented out or to be used by the municipality.
Police spokesperson Paulina Finger has claimed however that Jouberton SAPS had never received any complaints regarding the abandoned building.
“The SAPS encourages anybody with complaints regarding the building to call or visits the station commander at the police station.”
Petrus Siko of the Department of Social Development said the building belongs to the municipality and that crime must be reported to the police. “Regarding the subsidies the department does subsidise daycare centres provided they are registered and they meet norms and standards of operating a daycare centre.”
Spokesperson for the City of Matlosana Municipality Ntswaki Makgetha had not responded to queries by the time of going to Press. – Health-e News.