Squatters invade heritage building after Joburg spends R29m upgrading it
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Johannesburg - The heritage Rissik Street Post Office, which has been under renovation since 2012, has again been invaded by squatters after the city spent millions of rands on its upgrade.
The city had completed three phases of the restoration but had no budget to complete the fourth. Security failed and 15 people have now taken “occupation”.
DA councillor Neuren Pietersen said the extent of the damage in the historic interior, under restoration by heritage experts, was unknown.
“The city has wasted millions on this project which is probably all money down the drain,” he said.
The Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), which manages the site, said a court order had been taken against the squatters who had won the right to stay.
JPC chief executive Ruby Mathang said the restoration of the Rissik Street Post Office was executed in phases as and when budget became available.
“The fourth phase is pending. In this regard, the works will include among other things the extension of the development into the Oppenheimer Park, fire/smoke protection and the finishes of the main lobby.”
He said, to date, R29.6million had been spent on the project.
The city had lost the court case for eviction but it was preceding. Security will be sourced through the Joburg metro police department, he said.
A request for proposal for a private developer to complete the heritage restoration works and operate the property on a lease basis will be re-advertised in the next financial year, he said.
The Star reported in 2012 that refurbishment had started.
The building, constructed in 1897, had already then been vandalised, occupied by squatters and been on fire twice. In 2002, the clock hands and bells were stolen from the tower. The brass fittings, switches and wooden balustrades were already stripped.
After the last fire in 2010, R16m of temporary work was done to repair the roof and halt the decline and structural decay. The building was designed by Dutch architect Sytze Wierda, who also designed the Palace of Justice in Pretoria. The post office was declared a national monument in 1978.
The responsibility for its maintenance belonged to the SA Post Office, in terms of the long-term lease agreement entered into between the post office and the council, at a rental of R49 a year.