Cape Town - Time is running out for the Department of Public Works to take responsibility for the military base in Tamboerskloof, following renewed complaints that buildings on the site are derelict, unsafe and a haven for criminals.
Ward councillor Dave Bryant said the buildings “all pose a significant health and safety risk” and “cannot continue to be ignored by national government”.
The buildings could be demolished or repaired at cost to national government if the City of Cape Town’s notice of intention to have the structures declared “problem buildings” goes unchallenged.
Richard Bosman, city director of safety and security, said: “There are seven buildings on the erf as well as various animals. A notice of intention to declare the building a problem building was issued to the Public Works Department on June 23. The department has seven days to respond. If they do not, further steps will be taken as per the Problem Building By-law.”
According to this legislation, the city may asked Public Works to “clean, repair, renovate, repaint, alter, close, demolish or secure” any or all of these problem buildings.
“The investigation by the problem buildings unit is really a last resort after numerous attempts to try and get action from the national department of Public Works.”
The site has for several years been a source of concern for Tamboerskloof residents, who’ve complained about the informal dwellers and menagerie of animals living on the land. It belongs to the Department of Defence, and its administered by Public Works. It ceased to be used as a military base in 1991.
In 2013, the CSIR called for proposals from professional architects to provide draft concept drawings for the site, at erf 81.
Proposals mooted included the conversion of the Tamboerskloof Ammunition Magazine into a conference facility and the construction of a state guest house with single rooms and self-catering unit as well as five VIP residences. There were also plans to house military veterans in the city in an old age home.
But a few weeks later, the CSIR terminated the project, at the instruction of the Defence Department. Despite several attempts to get an explanation, the department declined to provide reasons.
Bosman said an inspection revealed that the only person living there was a caretaker, who claimed to have been there for almost 20 years.
This caretaker is artist and farmer André Laubscher, who runs what he termed a “foster farm” in the heart of upmarket Tamboerskloof for almost two decades.
It is home to various animals and has served as a refuge for abandoned children and adults seeking a place of safety. When the Cape Argus visited the farm a year ago, Laubscher was preparing to host a group of 40 children for the holidays.
Laubscher told the Cape Argus this week that he had not heard anything about the city’s “problem building” notice. However, he said someone had mentioned that a security kiosk would be erected at the entrance. Lights had also been installed. Although he was initially against this, the lights hadn’t bothered him much, he said.
Laubscher has faced several threats of eviction over the years, but he declined to comment further on these as there is still a court case pending. In 2011, when he was served with an eviction notice, Laubscher published the following on his Facebook page: “André’s Farm, Erf 81 Tamboerskloof – after about 15 years this unique space in the city is to be no more, this place where people could meet animals, destitute children and others found shelter, where art and performance and craftwork, and indigenous plants and frog breeders met with history buffs, this weekend getaway for ramblers and neighbouring families… ”
But others said the farm was a “den of iniquity” – filthy and covered in animal excrement.
Frederick Johnston, of the Department of Public Works’ Cape Town office, did not answer his phone when contacted for comment.
He also did not respond to e-mails asking for clarity on his department’s plans for the site.