Cape Town - Most of the houses in Bo-Kaap’s Chiappini Street are well-maintained and painted in the bright colours the area is famous for. Until you get to Number 98.
The derelict, ramshackle property, dating back to the 1800s, belongs to the City of Cape Town and is rented by 79-year-old Latiefa Fagodien for R10.60 a month.
But the floorboards give way when you walk on them, the ceiling is caving in and the plaster has come off the walls. The doors don’t fit properly because the frames are crumbling, and the bathroom is exposed to the elements.
Fagodien (known in the community as Auntie Tiefa), who worked “in service” in Sea Point when she was younger, has lived there for 47 years. “I married in this house,” she said. But nowadays, with her husband and two children dead, she lives alone.
“There’s no electricity. Never was. I use candles. I’m used to it, although when winter comes it’s not so good.”
Yusuf Safudien, of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, said the association had alerted the city to the condition of the property, which is in one of the historic sections.
“The house is next to the Prayer Quarry, which is where people came together for the first time to pray before the mosques were built. This area is part of the history of Bo- Kaap. It’s also where one of the oldest minstrel groups, the Glamour Boys, came from. So we don’t want to see this place in ruins.”
Safudien said the Bo-Kaap Civic Association was worried about Fagodien living there like that.
“She is exposed to all the foreigners selling drugs and we just want her last years to be in a bit of comfort.”
He said that in the early 1980s, a number of houses in Bo-Kaap had been rebuilt and given to people on the housing waiting list.
“But Auntie Tiefa wasn’t on the list. It’s as if the system missed her, then forgot about her.” Safudien said the Bo-Kaap Civic Association would be prepared to act as custodians of the property if the city wanted it to.
A neighbour, Hajiera Ely, said Fagodien had endless problems with the property. “She has to put buckets down and move around when it rains.”
Ely said neighbours helped where they could. Ward councillor Dave Bryant visited the house on Wednesday after receiving an enquiry. Bryant took photographs, which he sent to city officials, who said they would investigate.
He said there was no question that the building was in serious need of repairs.
He said he believed Fagodien’s home and the ruins opposite, which were once the home of 19th century Turkish scholar Abu Bakr Effendi, should be protected and restored to their full potential.
He said he had been pushing to have the Bo-Kaap area declared a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone, and this process was close to being finalised.
“It is essential we ensure that properties like these are protected and restored where possible so we do not lose any of our vital shared Cape Town heritage.”
The city’s mayoral committee member for Human Settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, said the city had tried to assist the tenant by offering her alternative housing, but this was refused.
She said the city was about to embark on an assessment of the remedial work required for this property and for similar heritage-protected properties in the area.
“Any future work on these properties would need to be approved by Heritage Western Cape. The investment required to upgrade these properties is expected to be substantial.”
Van Minnen said according to a historic agreement with the National Monuments Council, tenants could buy the properties for a minimal selling price, on condition tenants restored the properties to standards stipulated by the council.
“Most tenants are, however, elderly persons who do not have the financial and or other means to bring the buildings into compliance, as required.”