Organisation heeds seniors’ call

Abdul Kader Sydow, from the Western Cape Ekuhlaleni Workers Association, helped to fix one of the windows.

A non-profit organisation fixed broken windows at a City of Cape Town old-age home where some residents say they’ve been waiting up to three years for the municipality to do the repairs.

Seniors at Parktown Snapdragon Cottages said their pleas to the City to do the repairs had gone unheeded.

Members of the Western Cape Ekuhlaleni Workers’ Association noticed the broken windows while giving bread and masks to the residents and took it upon themselves to repair them.

Elizabeth Williams, 66, said she appreciated the help. “I’m so glad. I waited three years for the City to fix it. I reported it at the local housing office, and I went to Cape Town Civic Centre to report it, but nobody came out to fix it. I am not sure how it broke. Somebody maybe threw a stone. The draught made me sick, but I am fine now.”

Amina Adams, 75, said her two outside windows had been broken for almost a year. She had gone out and forgot something on the stove at the time. The fire department had had to break the windows to get in to extinguish the fire.

“I am so glad they came to fix it just before Eid. I reported it so many times. I even had to fix my own door,” Ms Adams said.

Another resident, Patrick Jonathan, 69, said the whole complex was neglected and the City wasn’t doing any maintenance.“I am still able to pick up a spade; other seniors are not able to do that. We had to cover the windows with plastic to stop the rain from flooding in. It is really unpleasant to live like this. The complex has lots of stray cats, and I have geckos running through my place.

“The City is not doing justice to old people. We have nobody to report maintenance needs, because we no longer have a live-in caretaker. The City cannot blame Covid-19, because our concerns have been raised long before this,” Mr Jonathan said.

Four residents share a bathroom, and one bathroom has had no warm water for more than a month also. That posed a risk to the seniors, Mr Jonathan said, as they now had to carry boiled water from their rooms to the bathroom.

Yakoeb Rinquest, spokesperson for the Western Cape Ekuhlaleni Workers’ Association, said the one year-old organisation based in Silvertown, was started by five artisans who wanted to train others and assist with employment opportunities.

During lockdown, however, they have been busy making masks and handing them out with bread to various old-age homes.

“We made 500 masks already. We felt sorry for the state the seniors at Parktown Snapdragon Cottages had to live in, so decided to help them from our own pockets to fix the windows. They had several complaints and issues.”

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the Parktown Snapdragon Cottages were self-catering units for able-bodied residents.

“The City has contracted security guards rather than caretakers at its assisted-living complexes to assist with necessary Covid-19-related access control, among others,” he said.

“This decision has not been taken lightly. We have really looked at how we can protect our residents, and we will look at communicating the reasons for this change more, where possible.

“The City empathises with our residents who may not understand this change in our operations. Our priority is to try and protect our residents from Covid-19, and we have taken this decision from a place of caring.”

Mr Booi said the seniors, like any other City tenant, were responsible for the unit they leased.

“Residents are encouraged to contact the City’s customer call centre and log a service request when necessary. The City’s public housing department is aware of the lack of warm water and has escalated this to its maintenance department for urgent assistance. We sincerely apologise for this and we will do everything in our power to resolve this as a matter of urgency.

“The City’s human settlements directorate has an official who visits tenants at the complex on a regular basis,” he said.