Heritage house left to rot

Dr Fanelwa Ngece-Ajay.

The future of a historic wood-and-iron house in Goodwood, hangs in the balance as the Department of Public Works says it could be sold or demolished.

The house at 24 Beaufort Street was bequeathed to the police by its elderly owner, who died in 2010.

Since then the house has been vandalised extensively and occupied illegally at times.

The house was registered to the national government in August 2011.

Public Works, the custodian of all government property, says it only realised the house was empty after it had already been vandalised. Responding to a question about the future of the house, the department said: “The property will either be sold or demolished.”

Asked if the property had been guarded, Public Works spokesman Thami Mchunu said: “Security was posted at the house. Security was withdrawn 30 November 2016.”

Alison Alexander, of Rainbow of Hope, a Goodwood safe house for children, said they had approached Public Works formally in 2015 about using the property, but even before then they had asked about using it as a safe haven for children up to the age of five. However, their enquiries had drawn a blank.

Ms Alexander said she had been “chasing” Public Works for more than a year about the house.

“I just gave up because I didn’t have time to pursue this on an ongoing daily basis”.

Rainbow of Hope board member Kevin Williams said the house could be salvaged and the government should not use its derelict state as an excuse not to grant it to the organisation, as donors had already offered to help restore the property.

“It wasn’t in that state when it was given to Public Works. They’ve allowed the property to be vandalised,” said Mr Williams.

He helped restore a burnt-down creche in a township in Strand in the early 2000s and believes 24 Beaufort Street is not beyond rescue.

Northern News asked Public Works if it would consider granting the property to an organisation like Rainbow of Hope.

“No, the property is not fit for habitation,” said Mr Mchunu.

Northern News asked Heritage Western Cape (HWC) about the property as it is one of only a handful of original wood-and-iron structures left in Goodwood, but HWC CEO Mxolisi Dlamuka referred us to the City of Cape Town.

“Please speak to the City of Cape Town about the heritage significance of the house. With regards to the plans to protect it, its owners should give you answers,” Mr Dlamuka said.

The mayoral committee member for area central, Siyabulela Mamkeli, said the house was more than 60 years old and was on the City’s heritage inventory but it had not been graded “as yet”.

“With regards to heritage protection, all buildings older than 60 years are protected under Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act. A permit from Heritage Western Cape is required for any alterations (including demolition) of the structure,” he said.

Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg said the house was vulnerable and she had become aware of it about four or five years ago.

“Ever since that time, it deteriorated slowly as a result of no maintenance as well as vandalism,” she said.

Neighbours had complained about “possible environmental health transgressions”.

She wants the house to add value to the neighbourhood “instead of being the eyesore it currently is”.

While the property had not been declared a problem building under the relevant by-law, Ms Janse van Rensburg said it was a “problematic building” and the City had “engaged” Public Works to “ensure a viable outcome”.