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Bo-Kaap pensioner’s dream to be realised

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A Bo-Kaap pensioner living in a derelict house is set to have a fairy tale ending to her story, with the City of Cape Town not only offering to renovate her house with its crumbling masonry, but also facilitating that she take ownership of the house.

On Thursday Latiefa Fagodien received news she would receive the title deed to the property from the council.

Fagodien’s story was brought to light by the Cape Argus in March.

With her house in Bo-Kaap in a poor state of repair, the City of Cape Town, which had earlier issued a stop works order to a builder who had offered to renovate her house after reading the article, has undertaken to do the work itself.

The appalling conditions in the Chiappini Street house that Fagodien, 79, was renting from the council for R10.60 a month, were first exposed by the Bo-Kaap Civic Association’s Yusuf Safudien.

But when builder Farouk Ryklief from University Estate tried to assist by starting renovations at his own cost, he was instructed by the city to stop work, and threatened that his tools would be confiscated by law enforcement.

Ryklief told the Cape Argus he had even considered doing the work at night because he couldn’t stand the thought of her having to spend a minute more like that.

The house is situated at the entrance to the Prayer Quarry, one of three historic Bo-Kaap quarries.

On Thursday, Benedicta van Minnen, the city’s mayco member for human settlements, said the city’s contractor had started with work on the structural repairs on Wednesday.

“Work is under way and if all goes according to plan, it is expected to be completed by the end of the month,” she said.

But, so far, all that has been done is that the kitchen area has been boarded up and a padlock placed on the front door.

Fagodien said some men from the city arrived and told her to move her stuff out of the kitchen.

“I had to get the neighbour’s child to help me.”

It was then boarded up and she is not sure when she will have access to it again.

“I told them I would rather Farouk did the work.”

Ryklief said he would have been finished by now.

He said his main concern with the front door being padlocked was that it created a fire hazard.

The only door to the outside now leads from the kitchen.

“But if there is a fire in the kitchen she could be trapped in her room.”

Ward councillor Dave Bryant said he had met with the heritage management officials and Ryklief, and they had “managed to find a way forward”.

He said there had been a mix-up between the structural renovations and regular repairs and maintenance.

“Mrs Fagodien and Mr Ryklief were well within their rights to go ahead with the work that was done.”

Bryant said the city would now be doing the structural repairs based on their engineer’s report, including on a wall that could date back to the 1700s that was built using Robben Island slate.

Van Minnen said the property was one of around 20 similar properties in the area, expropriated by the then council under the Slums Act of 1934.

“The owners were ‘permitted’ to stay and were charged a very minimal rental in exchange for losing ownership of their homes.”

She said an agreement was reached with the National Monuments Council (NMC) at the time that “tenants” could buy back their homes at a minimal selling price on condition they restored the properties to standards stipulated by the NMC.

“Most tenants are, however, elderly people who do not have the financial or other means to bring the buildings into compliance.

“This meant that they have been, again, denied ownership.”

Bryant said the next step would be for the city to facilitate Fagodien taking ownership of the house.

There has also been speculation the area at the back of Fagodien’s house, which houses two other properties, was to be developed, but Bryant said the city had never considered building on that site.

“If there was to be any development there it would have to go through a massive public participation process.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Prayer Quarry is untouchable.”

Safudien said the onus was now on the city to honour their word that they would fix it.

“We want to give them an opportunity to act, but we can’t wait forever.”

[Source: Cape Argus]
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