Stinky hell-hole is dangerous and a health hazard
Passersby cover their noses and hasten their pace. They can't stand the stench coming from the Arvin Marang Building in Commissioner Street, Johannesburg.
The slimy green water runs from the building into the street, forcing pedestrians to make a detour.
Marang is an old building now home to dozens of locals and foreigners. The nine-storey building, situated not far from the Gauteng department of local government, is in a state of decay.
On the first floor there is a spacious empty room which serves as a laundry room for the residents.
"This is where residents do their washing," says Bheka Ncengwa, who claims to be the building's security manager.
He denies that there are frequent power cuts in the building. But a spaza shop owner says Ncengwa is not telling the truth.
"Look," he says pointing, "I am using candles yet we pay rent, R400 and sometimes more. There are regular outages.
"The owner is only interested in our money. We have complained to him on a number of occasions about the state of the building but to no avail. This place is a hell-hole."
Lifts are not working. The residents use stairs, which are dark, smelly and filthy. There is no security and no identification cards normally required on entering blocks of flats.
No questions are asked on entering and residents claim the building has become a hideout for criminals.
On the second floor a young woman and two men mistake us for health inspectors and she pleads with us "not to close our building".
"Please bafowethu don't close the building, we have nowhere to go. We are aware of the situation here but there is nothing we can do," the woman pleads. Like fellow residents, she requested anonymity.
Ncengwa, on the other hand, says every floor has flushing toilets.
"The only problematic one is this one [on the first floor]. We use buckets to flush. We spoke to the owner about the problem and he kept on promising to attend to it, but nothing happened," says Ncengwa.
However, he will not give his boss's name.
He says only that his boss is an "old mlungu" and doesn't know his contact numbers or where he lives.
Residents throw out water and refuse from their windows. Some street vendors claim that in most cases the waste is faeces.
"I am not joking, I have seen that. I saw a plastic bag with faeces thrown to the ground from the building," says Fikile Luthuli a street vendor.
Nomonde Ngcamlela, a cleaner, says she has seen people relieving themselves on the stairs.
The smell is not only a problem to passersby but for street vendors and shopkeepers.
Luthuli sells fast food and says her business was doing well before "these people moved in".
"My clients have now run away. They complain about the smell. I used to make R2000 a day, now I make only R200. Every time we complain the security [Ncengwa] tells us that he spoke to his boss and we are not allowed to meet him."
Luthuli and other vendors say they will rejoice if the health department closes the building.
Attempts to contact the housing department, a street away from the Arvin Marang Building, were unsuccessful.