Seniors, patients protest being barred from community hall

Saadijah Bester, Juleiga Adams and Brenda Smith outside Lobelia community hall, in Lentegeur.

Lobelia community hall users, including pensioners and patients, have challenged being barred from meeting at and collecting medication from the facility.

Dozens of seniors, fitness fanatics and patients gathered outside the facility on Tuesday June 7 to tell the City of Cape Town that they do not accept that only a crèche could operate from the premises because of national Covid-19 protocols allowing for only 50% of the venue’s capacity be available.

Lobelia and Portland halls can only accommodate 60 people with the current Covid-19 restrictions.

Happy Tots Educare, the 39-year-old crèche and tenant of the City, fills this quota with two classes of 30 pupils each.

Up to 700 people use the facility regularly on different days at different times, keeping participants busy with arts and crafts. It is also where patients collect their medication from the Opportunity To Serve Ministries (OTSM) home-based caregivers, where residents can exercise with Lobelia Gym, socialise with Lentegeur East Concerned Community, participate in Lobelia Diabetes Support Group meetings, and enjoy themselves with members of the Lobelia Senior Community Club.

Earlier this month, after the hall had been closed by national Covid-19 lockdown restrictions for up to two years and then for a recent roof repair, the clubs returned just after Ramadaan in May, only to receive an email notifying them that they could not use the hall.

Representatives of each of the groups met with Mitchell’s Plain Sub-council chairman Solomon Philander and Avron Plaatjies, councillor for Ward 76 (which includes Ikwezi Park, Mandalay, and Lentegeur, northeast of the central railway line) at the hall, on Thursday June 9.

Mr Philander said that the City had to comply with national Covid-19 regulations and Mr Plaatjies said that together the community should collectively fight to have the restrictions reduced.

He said that local crèches did not make a lot of profit as many parents did not pay fees and had been further burdened with the national lockdown.

Cassiem Gamiet, chairperson of Lentegeur East Concerned Community (LECC), said the hall should be open for the community to use and not only for tenants.

He said that community groups were providing services to residents, which should be provided by the government, from their own pockets.

Youmna Mohammed, the co-ordinator of the Lentegeur Seniors’ Community Club, asked why there was no official, from the municipality, to address the community on the facility’s management.

She said that since before the national lockdown in March 2020 the centre has not had a facility manager.

“We need a service to be rendered and we are not going to allow the the City to dictate to us. This is unacceptable,” she said.

It was also revealed in the meeting that the educare, which initially had 30 pupils had doubled when the restrictions were relaxed and many adults were in lockdown.

Crèche principal Lenore Tieka said they had always had an amicable relationship with whomever used the hall.

Patsy Collins, an OTSM co-ordinator, said since the barring they have had to dispense up to 200 packages from a nearby church weekly.

“We are trying to get back into the hall. At the church a wheelchair can’t move in there. Boxes of medication take up half of the church benches and there is no privacy for us to explain medication to the clients,” she said.

Ms Collins said that patients came in throughout the day to collect their medication, rather than at a specified time.

The diabetes support group meets every fortnight with the foot clinic in between.

Lobelia Gym instructor Audrey Galant said the hall had been a lot busier during the height of the lockdown.

Mr Philander called on representatives to submit their applications to use the hall, as well as details about when each group meets.

He said that he would follow up with the relevant department responsible for the facility and ensure that the situation was addressed in accordance with national Covid-19 protocols in place.

Junaid Small, Valerie Daniels, Patsy Collins, Cassiem Gamiet, chairperson of Lentegeur East Concerned Community, Moosa Abrahams, Youmna Mohammed, from Lentegeur Seniors’ community club coordinator, and Audrey Galant, instructor for Lobelia Gym.