Stolen paving trips up disabled

Deon Arendse and Shaun Lemene were among the protesters outside the Bonteheuwel civic centre. They are members of Disabled People South Africa, who complained that they cant use the walkways.

Disabled people protested in the heart of Bonteheuwel over the chronic theft of paving bricks, which leaves uneven ground that is hard for them to move over. Members of the Disabled People South Africa’s (DPSA) Bonteheuwel branch gathered between the two ramps outside the civic centre, holding placards and chanting slogans on Thursday last week. The problem of stolen bricks is not just at the civic centre, however. Most of the bricks around the CBD have been stolen. The protesters said they all had to use the Bonteheuwel CBD area, especially when they went to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

Fagmieda Young, who is wheelchair-bound, said even with the help of someone, she still finds it difficult to make her way through the CBD.

“It has been close to five years now that the area has been like this. On one occasion, I almost tipped over. When I come here to SASSA and send someone inside to ask if one of the officials cannot come outside to speak to me, I am told that they cannot do that. However, it is very difficult to go up the ramp in my wheelchair because of the stolen paving bricks. How many people have not already been hurt because of the condition of this place? It does not only affect the people in wheelchairs – what about those who need to use crutches, or even mothers with their babies in the pram? I would like this to be fixed, but they must come up with a totally different plan – which does not involve paving,” Ms Young said.

John Abrahams echoed Ms Young’s sentiments, adding: “Even if you should fall here, the securities (guards) at the civic centre do not help you at all. Some people are not strong enough to lift a person who fell from their wheelchair. It’s not right that one at times gets hurt while coming to the people who are supposed to assist you. And if you get hurt outside, and go to the day hospital for help – not even there you get the treatment you deserve. They must build shorter ramps. I am epileptic. Why do they not let go of the paving and put on a tar mix so that it is not stolen?”

Deon Arendse said he feels like his movements are restricted, and at times, he has to take a detour that is very far from where he needs to be.

“We can’t go anywhere around her. The thieves leave huge holes because of the stolen bricks. As my wiel vasskop, dan kan ek uitval. In fact, it happened to me three times already. I am paralysed from the waist down. Sometimes I have to wait up to 30 minutes to get someone’s attention to help me get back in my wheelchair after I have fallen out. Not everyone is also strong enough to help me get back in it. Not all of us who use wheelchairs are fortunate enough to have someone to help us get around. We are now also forced to take a long route to get to the shop, and it’s dangerous to make use of the road to get to where you want to be. The City of Cape Town can fix roads for cars, but they cannot fix this area to make it more convenient for us. These stolen bricks are being sold for as little as R1 each, and it is sad that there is a market out there for it,” Mr Arendse said.

Shahied Africa said all their members are unhappy about the state of the ramp and the area around the civic centre.

“Our members and the rest of the community make use of this facility, and it has been in a dilapidated state for five years now. How can the City of Cape Town claim to be a caring city, but it seems they do not care about the disabled. We don’t want excuses, but solutions. This is also not political – it’s about human rights, which include access to buildings, especially when people need to see officials at SASSA.

Ward 50 councillor, Angus Mckenzie, said R70 000 was approved from his ward allocation to have walkways cemented or tarred in the CBD.

“An in-house contractor will be appointed soon,” he said.