‘We have nowhere to go’

About 35 members of the BonteheuwelDisabled Group (BDG) have nowhere to host their daily programme after they claim they were evicted from the Bonteheuwel multi-purpose centre last Wednesday.

The BDG runs a day centre for physically and intellectually disabled people, aged 18 years and older, from Mondays to Thursdays, at the centre.

David Pillay, co-founder of the BDG, said due to outstanding rent, they were evicted by the Bonteheuwel Multi-purpose NGO, which manages the place.

He said for two months they had been unable to afford the rent of R1 200 a month for an additional office to expand the BDG services to a help desk for the community.

Manager of the NGO, Rushine February, said when Mr Pillay approached her for the additional space, she refused as they already used the hall for free.

She said she had agreed to let him use the office but after two months of no communication from Mr Pillay about his outstanding rent, she rented the office out to another tenant.

However, in an article published in the Daily Voice on Thursday July 6, area central Mayco member Siyabulela Mamkeli is quoted as saying: “The organisation does not have permission to charge a rental. However, we will investigating these claims.”

Mr Pillay said because there was no electricity when he started to rent the hall three years ago, he repaired the wiring out of his own pocket. He said in a verbal agreement with Ms February they agreed that his labour charges would be subtracted from the rent that he owed her. “I went away on family business and in last month the chairperson phoned to say that she put other people in the office. She never informed us that she was going to do that.

“When I came back she asked me for the keys but I told her that it doesn’t work like that. People need this space where they can get access to various services from the City of Cape Town.”

He said that he is no longer allowed on the premises after Ms February banned him from entering. “Because I am not allowed to be here, my group will not be here. If we’re not here then the whole place is empty. I told her that because of this I will now send her an invoice of R3 800 for the repairs I did and then she said that they will charge me for all the time that I’ve been using this centre,” he said.

He said that the children now have nowhere to go and their parents will be forced to give up their jobs to look after them during the day. “They give a fee of R40 a month so we don’t have money to pay rent because for the month we get only get in R900. We provide them with breakfast, lunch, and tea and get no funding. Most of the money comes out of my own pocket,” he said.

He also said that he has, however, been paying R50 a month to rent the hall but Ms February said that the R50 is to hire a security guard for the premises. “People have been breaking in here even with a security guard so we are asking every tenant to pay a R50 to get another security guard,” said Ms February.

She said the rent that the tenants pay forms part of the salaries of the NGO. She also said that after continuous warnings not to smoke and cook in the hall, the BDG still continued to do so. “There are disabled people there they can’t work with gas inside. I told him that I would stop the programme if they didn’t stop.

“I don’t want David on the premises because he is rude to me and accuses me of things. I will not take his abuse and stories that he make up about me. I don’t have a problem with the group I have a problem with David.”

When taken on a tour of the centre, the Athlone News noticed a broken ceiling in the bathroom and kitchen, no electricity in the kitchen, and damages to the doors.

Ms February said that due to the condition of the building the tenants are charged less rental. In response to this Mr Mamkeli said that the City is aware of the condition of the building. “We are awaiting the allocation of funds to do the repairs,” he said.

Ward 50 councillor Angus Mckenzie said the matter is being addressed and will be resolved. “Everyone has access to the facility and we can’t deny them access unless we have a reason to,” he said.

Monicka Bergman whose sister-in-law and neighbours’s child belongs to BDG, said: “If this places closes down then they will be on the streets. They are so excited in the mornings to come here because it’s like a school to them, they are here every day, they are happy here,” she said.

She said that they are dependant on the BDG to keep them safe and away from gang violence and other crimes. “They don’t care anymore, if they want to rape you they will whether you are disabled or not.”

Susan Hendricks, who is one of the volunteers at BDG, said people with special needs are much more sensitive and holds on to things longer than others. She said that the shutting down of the programme will have a great effect on the disabled. “We have to think about them, how will they take this. It’s not logical to want to close this place,” she said.