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Dept to use derelict cottages

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The department’s security unit had taken note of the current situation at the cottages and it was being monitored.

Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health, which owns the cottages in Memorial Road, has reassured members of the Kimberley public that the buildings, which have stood empty for several years and are now completely derelict, will be used.

“A utilisation plan (for the cottages) has been put in place,” Department of Health spokesperson, Lulu Mxekeso said yesterday.

“The construction service provider will be on site in April 2018 when the new financial year commences. The buildings will be effectively used by the department for operational purposes.”

Mxekeso added that the department’s security unit had taken note of the current situation at the cottages and it was being monitored.

The semi-detached houses, which are supposed to be national monuments, were built by Cecil John Rhodes in the 1890s to accommodate the Viennese philharmonic orchestra.

Over the years, however, with the exception of the first house closest to Du Toitspan Road, they have been vacant and have become prey to vandalism and theft.

Now essentially just empty shells, with everything from the floorboards to the window frames having been stripped, the houses, which are covered in filth and human faeces, have apparently been taken over by criminals, prostitutes and drug users.

Sol Plaatje municipal security guards, together with officials, last week raided the houses, where several people were found sleeping in horrific conditions, after a schoolboy was robbed of his cellphone while walking past on his way to school.

The municipality at the time appealed to the relevant government department to take ownership of the cottages and restore them to their original glory.

“The condition of these buildings is appalling. It is absolutely shocking. They are being used as a haven for criminals and drug users,” municipal spokesperson, Sello Matsie, said, adding that it was not the first time the municipality had received complaints about the cottages.

The Department of Health also came under heavy criticism from members of the public for turning a blind eye to what was happening, despite the fact that the cottages were adjacent to the Ministry of Health’s offices.

“These cottages are situated between the ministry and the department – you cannot tell me that you don’t know what is going on there. This is proof that politicians do not care about the people they are supposed to serve,” one resident said.

“At the end of the day, when a dead body is pulled out of one of these cottages, they will stand on their podiums and give speeches but when they can do something, they pretend they don’t know what is going on,” another resident said.