Rat infested and dangerous but it was ‘home’‚ say Cape York residents anxious to return to Joburg CBD

A man walks past the lifeless body of a man who apparently jumped from the fourth floor of Cape York building in central Johannesburg. Seven people died, and seven others were injured after the hijacked building caught fire yesterday morning. An inquest has been opened by the police. Pic. Sandile Ndlovu.
A man walks past the lifeless body of a man who apparently jumped from the fourth floor of Cape York building in central Johannesburg. Seven people died, and seven others were injured after the hijacked building caught fire yesterday morning. An inquest has been opened by the police. Pic. Sandile Ndlovu.

While it is difficult to fathom‚ many of those moved from the dilapidated Cape York building to Wembley Stadium in Turffontein believe they were better off living in the rundown building.

Our reporter visited the stadium where the dozens of residents were moved to by City of Joburg officials after a fire gutted the dilapidated building earlier this month.

 Some were found lounging outside the white tents while others were walking on a gravel road‚ carrying buckets and bottles of water to use to bath.

 Others had already left the stadium and headed to the inner city to continue their daily hustle.

 Clothes were scattered outside the white tents while others had bundled their clothing into plastic tubs which they also used to bath.

 A few brown empty beer bottles lay outside one tent where a brown dog lazed amongst the people‚ soaking in the early morning sun.

 “It is not nice being here at all. These tents are cold. Night time is unbearable and unfortunately‚ these are not enough for everyone‚” said Thandi Buthelezi‚ a mother of eight who had been moved from Cape York to the stadium.

 “Each tent can accommodate about four or five people. There are less than 20 tents so I just share mine with my children and grandchild‚” she added.

Some of those who had left Cape York however had refused to leave the inner city and take up the temporary accommodation.

 Others had relatives and friends who lived in other buildings and had chosen to seek refuge with them.

 Temporary toilets were stationed close by at the stadium- a luxury that the Cape York residents had lived without for many years.

 But Buthelezi said they are unhappy at Wembley.

 “The toilets are well maintained but we haven’t had water in a few days. The water they provided is finished so we ask for water close by just so we can bath‚” she said.

 MaButhelezi was one of scores of people who were removed from the hijacked Cape York building after at least two floors of it caught alight.

Seven people were killed. One died after jumping out from a window of the burning building while the other six died either from smoke inhalation or the flames‚ officials said at the time.

 The Cape York building was infested with rats‚ had no running water or electricity‚ but to many it was still home.

“But it was way better than being here. I had my business there and I had a plan for each day. Here we are just in the mercy of the government and they can do whatever they want to do with us‚” she said.

 As schools re-open on Monday‚ Buthelezi said it was not going to be a joyous occasion for her homeless children.

 “The officials came here and took their names and details but in terms of uniform and books‚ we haven’t received anything yet‚” she said‚ explaining that some of the children had lost some of the belongings during the sudden move.

 “I am also sad that my children will go to school and have to come back to this place. This is not home‚” she said.

 While the former residents of Cape York had planned to return to the building after police concluded their investigation into the cause of the fire‚ the rightful owner of the building has since sealed it off and obtained an interdict‚ barring anyone from going inside.

 Meanwhile‚ the City of Johannesburg’s disaster management team informed TimesLIVE that a group of people who were evicted from another building in the City centre several days ago were also to be moved to the Wembley Stadium.

 This would be the third group of people brought to the stadium as former Cape York residents arrived to find a group of other residents moved from another block of flats in the CBD occupying a group of rooms in a brick structure at the stadium.

 “All we want is for the City to move us to our permanent homes as promised‚” said MaButhelezi.

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