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Slum building going nowhere slowly

A police car on the pavement outside Excelsior Court, the old police residence on the Berea that has deteriorated. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

A police car on the pavement outside Excelsior Court, the old police residence on the Berea that has deteriorated. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 29, 2022

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Durban - For a decade, the deteriorating Berea building known as Excelsior Court, has been the topic of a court case.

The Berea eye-sore has a police presence: residents of the condemned Excelsior Court, in Peter Mokaba (Ridge) Road, told The Independent on Saturday they were police or family of police.

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A cop car stood parked on the pavement outside and another was in the parking lot in the grounds as they probably have done since back in the day when it was officially a police residence.

Rubbish piles up and is being burnt at the back of Excelsior Court on Durban’s Berea. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Only rubble remains inside a flat in Somsteu Court, which once housed police and now waits to be renovated. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
A couple of last remaining letters identify the empty Somsteu Court, with Natalia Court in the background. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Today, as far as police authorities are concerned, evictions and court action are in progress.

“(They have) initiated at court (action) and this is sub-judice,” said spokeswoman Colonel Thembeka Mbele.

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“This pending process is currently with the State Prosecutor and the sheriff of the court to finalise the submission of notices to all occupants before this matter can proceed,” she said.

It’s not the first time the matter has come up.

“Over and over we are told that the matter is in court,” said DA Durban Central Constituency head Dianne Kohler-Barnard.

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“For a decade?“ she asked.

She said local councillor Remona MacKenzie has met yet again with the local SAPS, but the issue seems to be insurmountable. Kohler-Barnard herself had done full oversight visits of the building.

“Reports to the police and (Department of) Public Works have been ignored.

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“This is a Public Works building - yet, as with so many that they are tasked with, it seems to have simply been abandoned. We have asked the SAPS when it will be off their hands and back with Public Works for renovation - but in a decade nothing has happened, except that parts of the building are now collapsing,“ she said.

National Public Works spokesman Thamsanqa Mchunu said he had responded to the question about Excelsior Building many times to the Independent group in Durban.

A corridor inside Excelsior Court, the police apartments that have been condemned.Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Missing windows look our over mountains of rubble and earth works at Excelsior Court. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/ANA

“The response is that the buildings are managed and run by the police,“ he said referring the query to them.

“Public Works is supposed to conduct upgrades and renovations.“

Kohler-Barnard continued: “It has now come to our attention that rooms in the condemned building are being illegally rented out by at least one illegal resident closely linked to a police constable.

“To find out now that the rooms are being rented out, by someone within the building, is infuriating,” she said.

Kohler-Barnard called on the National Police Commissioner, General Khehla Sitole to resolve this issue, root out the criminal activities going on there, and hand it back to the Department of Public Works for demolition.

“Now that it has been abandoned for so long, there is little chance that the building can be renovated.

“The slum building, from which run huge rats and reptiles, has garages and rooms filled with garbage and human waste, and taxis have for a decade been seen washing their cars free from the fire hose which snakes down the side of the building.

“Property owners all around are kept awake as all-night parties are held regularly. There are reports of illegal shebeens being run there, as well as other criminal activities. Yet frequently police vehicles are seen parked outside day and night. Locals ask whether they are living there or participating in criminal activities within the building,“ she said.

Kohler-Barnard said it was claimed that money was allocated each year for the building to be upgraded, but as nothing has ever been done on it, that is presumably going straight into someone's bank account.

“There is no security guard, and the security gates have long since been ripped off and sold for scrap.

“The SAPS members were ordered to vacate a decade ago but some are still living there, as well as many others who have no connection to the SAPS,“ she said.

Mbele said the SAPS provides an annual budget to the station for day to day maintenance.

“However, severe repairs cannot be executed under day to day maintenance. Funds to renovate this building cannot be made until this building has been vacated by all occupants.

“Once this has been completed, a project for renovations can be initiated and a request for funds can be made to National Treasury,” she said.

Mbele said three other police buildings, Natalia, Somtseu and Laeticia courts have been condemned, owing to their condition.

“SAPS has requested the renovations of these facilities, however, time frames cannot be provided as funds will need to be made available by the National Treasury,” she said.

In the meantime, Natalia and Somsteu Courts, next to the Durban Central Police Station, lie gutted and without any occupants, The Independent on Saturday team noticed on a quick visit before police ordered them to leave the property.

The Independent on Saturday

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