Community rallies around granny’s cause

MATTHEW HIRSCH

There seems to be hope on the horizon for a pensioner living in a derelict council-owned house in Bo-Kaap.

Latiefa Fagodien’s story went viral on social media last week when the City stopped a good Samaritan from working on the house, citing concerns about heritage restrictions.

On Friday her neighbours came out to support her when ward councillor David Bryant met with Ms Fagodien, community organisation Where Rainbows Meet, and concerned residents.

Ms Fagodien has been living in the house in Chiappini Street for almost 50 years. After the media highlighted the appalling conditions she was living in, professional builder Farouk Ryklief, started repair work on the house for free, but was forced to stop last week.

Ms Fagodien, who has suffered two strokes, has been living alone since her husband died two years ago.

She said the house, which has no electricity supply, had fallen into disrepair over a number of years.

“I have been here nearly 50 years. When I got married we moved to this house. From 1969 the house has been getting worse and worse.”

“The gentleman that helped me is a very good man and I would like him to go on with the work and finish it. I don’t see why the City had to stop it. They told me this was a heritage site.”

After her roof started leaking again during in the heavy rains last week, she said: “I would just like it to be fixed properly.”

Mr Bryant said the whole area held much significance for the local community and to Islam in South Africa.

“I think it is very important that we do what we can to assist. The challenge with so many of the houses is that they have heritage significance. It’s a delicate balance for us and we have to recognise that so many of these homes were not built with normal building regulations.”

He said he had spoken to Mr Ryklief over the phone and commended him. He also promised that the City would be sending a contractor out to Ms Fagodien’s home to repair the kitchen wall, which has heritage value. Thereafter the other renovations could be done, in accordance with the City’s heritage department.

Mr Bryant didn’t address Ms Fagodien’s claims that he had promised to start repairs on the house two years ago.

Elaborating on matters relating to ownership and who takes responsibility for repair work, Mr Bryant said: “The maintenance falls under the ownership of the property. That doesn’t necessarily take into consideration that a pensioner living by herself might not have the means to do that. A lot of these sites have fallen into disrepair. It is our responsibility to make sure that structural issues are fixed. Because it falls under City ownership, anything besides basic maintenance would mean it has to go through the City’s property department. “

Mymoena Scholtz, from the non-profit organisation Where Rainbows Meet, was also there in support.

“I saw her story on social media and I felt that I wanted to do something. I would like to see her living in dignity. Our focus is on the empowerment of women and at her age, almost at 80 years old, she should not be struggling like this.”

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