Pamela James, Bernadette Russ, Donovan Nobles, Estelle Myburgh, Taryn Elias, Tasneem Fries, Laverne Lodge, and Gina Jones are just a handful of residents who are living in the flats in Westbury, Newclare and Claremont.
According to Donovan Nobles, a concerned resident, in 1986 the community of Westbury was shaken by the news that a young girl by the name of Tessa August (17 years old at the time) lost part of her arm due to the collapse of a flight of stairs at Arthur flats.
“It’s been 32 years later and the iron barriers that were replaced by the council are loose and the platforms are beginning to give in,” explained Nobles.
Ward councillor Susan Stewart in her last block meeting at the flats said: “There’s no doubt about it, these flats are rotten to the core.
“These flats are over fifty years old and have been neglected for many years and unfortunately, the neglect has caused problems that are just accumulating by the day and causing even greater problems.
“Residents have to understand that some things are bigger than councillors. It’s all dependant on how much revenue the City collects.”
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Residents have been frustrated with the housing department and some explained that they will not pay for rent as the conditions of the flats are becoming unbearable.
On May 9, councillor Vasco da Gama, Speaker of the Johannesburg Council visited Ward 69 and Ward 82 with Chief Whip of Council, Cllr Kevin Wax, the Chair of Chairs, Cllr Alex Christians, Councillors and several Chairpersons of Section 79 oversight committees to conduct an oversight visit in the two wards.
“The purpose of the visit was to verify the countless complaints from residents regarding the deteriorating state of infrastructure in Westbury and surrounding areas, especially the flats.
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“Pursuant to a radio interview on Kofifi FM, I undertook to return to the areas where most complaints were raised, residents invited me to conduct oversight,” said da Gama.
As the officials walked through the flats they could understand the frustration of residents. Councillor Suzanne Clarke and da Gama questioned the area managers James Pailman and Barry Kleynhans for the lack of service delivery in the communities.
“We must ask any of them if they would want to live in these conditions. It is totally unacceptable. The City has 33000 workers and we have check if they working, if they not doing their job then they must go. That’s why we are here,” said Clark.
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After coming out of Edith Flats the speaker was speechless and disappointed, all he said was, “Ek kan ma’ niks se nie.” It was a long day as the councillors moved through the area and listened to complaints from the residents. After the oversight visit, a meeting was held at Dannie van Zyl hall in Claremont where various issues were addressed.
“I held a meeting with senior officials from City entities to discuss the way-forward and requested a report on Monday, May 14 regarding urgent interventions to be implemented to remedy the urgent service requests; and after 2 weeks a comprehensive report on plans to address the bigger challenges raised by the community on maintenance of their dwellings,” said da Gama.
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