From the CapeTowner, by Loyiso Mpalantshane, 28th April 2011
The decision to close down Senator Park, the city’s notorious block of flats is the answer to the prayers of many a city resident – and is long overdue. This was the unanimous opinion of both business owners and residents living near the apartment block when the CapeTowner visited the flats on Tuesday April 26, following news last week that the Western Cape High Court had issued its owners with an order to upgrade the building on Wednesday April 20. Tenants living in the 170-room apartment – situated between Keerom and Long streets – are expected to pack up their belongings before July, when upgrade work will start.
Residents interviewed advised the CapeTowner not to enter the premises while others said it was used as a hideout by thieves, prostitutes and drug peddlers. No one would agree to have their picture taken. Jean-Claude Kasongo, who lives in nearby Leeuwen Street, says although one of his friends rents a room in the building, he is glad that owners of the building have decided to move the tenants out. Mr Kasongo even accused police officers of contributing towards the crime allegedly tipping off drug dealers about pending raids so they can hide their “stuff”. “This is our prayer. Let the place be closed down. I think it is necessary to remove the tenants because it is a disaster waiting to happen one day. People have already died here and one day you are going to see a big crime happening there. “People steal from shops and run inside Senator Park. One day a guy came in there asking for Mr John and criminals took him upstairs. They robbed him of everything he had,” Mr Kasongo said.
Shopkeeper Lesley Woodrush said: “I hear they say once you go in there your cellphone will be gone. It is not a good sight especially this side of town where there is a lot of tourists. It’s a good idea to close it down,” he said. Tasso Evangelinos, of the Central City Improvement District (CCID), said giving the building a facelift would have positive economical spin-offs for the surrounding buildings – which was included in documentation submitted to the High Court. They also included newspaper clippings of reports about people falling out of windows and police raids at the building. “We are glad the matter has been finalised. Any significant investment into property is a bonus for the CBD. The knock-on effect is that the refurbishment will certainly affect the property value of buildings in the surrounding areas and encourage more investments and upgrades,” he said. Labour lawyer, Michael Bargraim – who owns four flats at Senator Park – said troubles with the building had started about 10 years ago and added that court officials with eviction orders feared some tenants who refused to pay rent. Mr Bargraim said a decision to save the building had already been taken in 2004. He said the situation was so bad that no law-abiding person wished to live “any longer” in Senator Park. “Unfortunately all the tenants will have to be evicted. They will have enough time and notice in which to move. My information is that the majority of the tenants do not in fact pay rent, hence are illegal residents. “The body corporate needs to be applauded because they have done an enormous amount of work which even the police couldn’t get right. The situation was completely untenable and could not continue,” he said.
Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.