Residents demand answers about ruined Rocklands centre

What’s left of Rocklands shopping centre.

Rocklands residents and businesses do not believe that the landlord of their local shopping centre does not have the money to rebuild the complex sooner.

They demanded answers during a meeting called by ward councillor Danny Christians at Rocklands civic centre on Monday February 20.

The building that housed Shoprite and several other businesses was completely gutted after it caught alight on Wednesday December 14 (“Hawker had premonition of fire”, Plainsman, December 20).

Soon after bricks and roof sheeting started being scavenged from the building and taken away by the truckload.

The fence has also been stolen (“Derelict centre being stolen brick by brick”, Plainsman February 1).

On Monday the owner of the property on the corner of Park Avenue and Caravelle Street, Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) said they would lobby the government, a shareholder, for funds.

Skhumbuzo Ndlovu, SEFA head of property, said the incident was not budgeted for.

“We are deliberating various budgets to see if we can’t source anything to rebuild the building,” he said.

He said that they would communicate with the community in 12 weeks’ time to discuss any progress or plans.

“The biggest priority is to clean up and secure the site,” he said.

SEFA regional facilities manager Ghaulied van Schalkwyk said they have only been property owners for the last 12 to 18 months.

He said that the demolition plan would be submitted to the City of Cape Town today, Wednesday February 22.

Mr Van Schalkwyk said that they were under a lot of pressure from the City of Cape Town to clean the area as they had received a notice from the environmental health department following complaints of smells and influx of flies.

Rocklands neighbourhood watch members asked what was going to happen now.

Theresa Motto, secretary of Rocklands Neighbourhood Watch, speaks up.

Theresa Motto, secretary of Rocklands Neighbourhood Watch, said: “This cannot continue like this”.

She said the looting was continuing and that they have been the eyes and ears of the community since the fire broke out.

Ms Motto said residents have become immune to the noise of bricks being chopped up and wheelie bins being pushed up and down the streets of Rocklands.

“It was a small piece of the building and now it is the whole building that needs to be replaced,” she said.

Washielah Sardien, Rocklands neighbourhood watch member and Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum’s (CPF) sub-forum Rocklands committee member, called for a stipend for neighbourhood watch members putting their lives on the line to protect infrastructure.

Mitchell’s Plain CPF co-opt member Gwendoline Pullen said the community was lost without its shopping centre.

She pleaded for an upgraded shopping centre to be built soon.

“Our old people don’t have R24 to travel to the Town Centre and then they get robbed,” she said.

“We want our old vendors to get their places back because they are scattered around in the area. They’re renting space elsewhere and they don’t do much business,” she said.

Ms Pullen said local contractors should be brought on board to speed up the process and ensure ownership in the community.

“Look at the experts who broke down the building,” she said.

She said that the community knew the thugs and would be able to keep them in check.

“In three to four months the building can be up and about because everyone is positive.

“As a community we need to look out for each other. Traders are struggling. They had to pack up. Who is providing bread for those people,” she asked.

Resident Farieda Tallard asked whether SEFA had insurance and if so why it was taking so long for them to be paid out.

Peter Bosman, another resident, said that something was not right with SEFA as insurance should have paid out long ago.

Mr Van Schalkwyk said their legal and insurance claims were still in process.

Tyrone Titus, owner of T’s liquor World, the only business still standing next to the ruins, said he refused to move out despite SEFA instructing him to stop trading.

“I will not let us close down. I am from Mitchell’s Plain. If you close something down you open up an opportunity to break down and there are people who will take every opportunity to make a quick buck,” he said.

He said their cries to remain open fell on deaf ears but it was the reason their structure was still standing.

Mr Titus said that he still had loans to pay for the assets in his shop and that his fridges could not just be unplugged.

“I still owe the bank so how can I shut down,” he said.

He survived the national Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and was able to feed his neighbours.

A follow up meeting will be held at Rocklands civic centre on Tuesday April 18, at 11am.

For more information call Mr Christians on 084 411 1166.