A de-relict building in the Point precinct has been declared problematic by the city. It is home to more than 300 people who have nowhere else to live. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - They pay R120 a night to sleep in a building that is not fit for human habitation.  The dilapidated building on Pickering Street reeks of filth, has rooms the size of toilet cubicles and makeshift walls that are falling apart. 

But it’s the only option for more than 300 of the city’s homeless people, who have been pleading with the owner to improve condition.

However, instead of getting better service, they were served with 
an eviction notice when they refused to pay rent until the owner carried 
out renovations. 

When Sunday Tribune City Watch visited the building, tenants spoke of how their lives were in danger. Broken windows and doors made female tenants vulnerable to criminals who could walk in at any time. They also claimed that their children were being infected with diseases such as tuberculosis. 

The six toilets and shower could not accommodate the number of people using the building.

In some parts of the building, rubbish was strewn all over the place and filthy water from broken pipes created puddles in the corridors.  

Vuyokazi Mlambo said they could not move out because it was the only place they could afford.  She lamented the poor conditions they were subjected to, saying the owner had taken advantage of 
their situation.  

“This, in summer, presents a health hazard, something needs to be done,” she said. 

“For a very long time, we have been pleading with the owner to make this better. Why are they failing to renovate the building, given that everyone is paying to sleep here?”

She said they were also subjected to random searches and harassment by security guards, especially while they were sleeping.

Having failed to recieve a positive response from the landlord, the tenants sought help from Delangokubona Business Forum.  Known for its strong-arm tactics, the forum has threatened to hijack decaying buildings which the city was battling to hold owners accountable for. 

The forum’s leader, Nathi Mnyandu, has since instructed the tenants to 
not pay rent until their demands had been met.  

Amina Hibrahimu , the owner of the building, maintained in an affidavit that it was compliant. She filed an application in the Durban High Court to evict the tenants.

She refused to answer other questions sent to her and directed queries to Amod’s Attorneys. 

Naseera Shaikh, a spokesperson for Amod’s Attorneys, said it had a court order to evict all tenants who had not paid rent. 

City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city had declared the building as problematic.   

He said the conditions at the shelter were unsatisfactory and the relevant unit was aware of this.

“During the recent operation, we discovered appalling conditions – overcrowding, scabies, poor ventilation, illegal structures, a shortage of ablutions facilities and fire safety issues.  The premises is also in contravention of town planning due to the illegal use of the building. The shelter is well known for crime and drugs.  The police, which was a partner during the joint operations, are aware of this shelter and provincial government leaders have visited this building.

“The city cannot close the shelter without following the court processes. Hence, during the joint operations, the building was profiled and evidence 
was documented.  The city’s health department has been informed of the various non-compliance issues at the site, and other departments are looking at ways to enforce compliance in the interim,” said Mayisela.

Sunday Tribune