Family’s battle to get home repaired

Dawood Hendricks in the upstairs bedroom that was destroyed by a fire.

The City of Cape Town has yet to repair a Bonteheuwel family’s home, seven months after an electrical fault caused a fire that destroyed parts of it, including the roof.

As winter tightens its grip on the city, the Hendricks family of seven are forced to sleep in the small lounge of the ruined Dissel Road maisonette they rent from the City. When it rains, water runs down from the fire-gutted upstairs bedroom, and the family have had no electricity since the fire in December.

Shihaam and Dawood Hendricks have four children aged 5 to 14. They live with Mr Hendricks’ sister, Shirley Hendricks, who is the City’s tenant.

“I have been everywhere,” Ms Hendricks said. “Nobody can give us answers. I have become a familiar face at the local housing office. We live in unsafe conditions, and it is winter now.”

Mr Hendricks said he had been unable to sleep properly since the storm on Thursday July 9, and during the nights when it rained he had to use buckets to scoop up water.

The family also throw whatever fabric they can get, including their clothes, on the stairs to soak up the water. And the cold, winter wind howls throughout the house.

City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said they would investigate, but he couldn’t say when the repairs would begin and blamed the Covid-19 lockdown regulations for the delay.

However, Ms Hendricks said the City had had three months before lockdown started to repair their home.

Mr Tyhalibongo said the City would attend to the case as “a matter of urgency”, but when Athlone News asked for a more specific time frame, he said the City would do the repairs “as soon as it is able to”.

Ward councillor Angus McKenzie said he had been in communication both with the family and the City’s human settlements department about the case. The City would wait first for the insurance payout before appointing a contractor to do the repairs, he said.

“The department informed me that at the beginning of the year, they were busy with a process to request quotes for repairs to more than 40 fire-damaged units. During lockdown, the challenge was to get material from stores. Then the supply chain management could also at one stage not access the sixth floor at the Civic Centre, because of a Covid-19 positive case, and hence could not access the documents. The situation is not (ideal), but unfortunately there are processes that need to be followed,” Mr McKenzie said.