Scene of a murder, Hout Bay’s “white house, could be demolished

Many Hout Bay residents want the “white house” building demolished. Picture by Tariro Washinyira.

Tariro Washinyira

22 July 2015

The controversial “white house” in Hout Bay, scene of the murder earlier this month of a Congolese resident, could be demolished in August, says Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport.

Herron told GroundUp the recommendation to demolish the building would come before the City Council on July 29 and if it was approved the “white house” could be demolished in the first two weeks of August.

The building had been constructed as standby accomodation for staff at the Hout Bay Road Maintenance Depot, he said, “presumably in the 1930s”.

“However, as the motor car became popularised and public transport improved,the need for these lodgings diminished and eventually disappeared.”

Hout Bay residents have been divided on the future of the building with some insisting it should be demolished and others suggesting the land and the building should be used.

On 8 July, 27-year-old Nchikala Ngoy was stabbed to death on his way home from the public library by criminals who are believed to use the building as their hideout. The building faces Hout Bay Clinic.

When GroundUp visited the building on 20 July 2012, it was burning. It is believed residents set fire to it.

Community and family laid flowers at the corner on the spot where Ngoy died. Congolese community leader, Roger Malila said this was to mark the place where his spirit lay.

Members of the Hout Bay community and family laid flowers on a corner near the spot where Nchikala Ngoy died. Picture by Tariro Washinyira.

Malila described the site as a crime hot spot and very dangerous, particularly to foreigners. He himself had been robbed several times near the building.

“Hout Bay is a nice place; it is still safer than other townships. I have been living here since 2002 when I came from DRC. These things happening are just beginning; the area is developing into a crime area like Khayelitsha. The boys doing this are 14-year-olds. Their families protect them when they are apprehended thus encouraging them to engage in more crime.”

“That house should be demolished; it is very dangerous to passersby. It is a barracks for the criminals.”

Malila said the Congolese community was working with Hout Bay police to reduce crime.

African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Man-O-Man Nkosinathi Mazele condemned the murder. But he said the building should not be demolished but developed into a youth centre.

He said Hout bay was a peaceful community which welcomed foreigners.

“What happened to Ngoy could have happened to anyone, even a South African. It is a criminal act and nothing xenophobic. It is an unfortunate incident, given that they are coming here for refuge and running away from several challenges faced in their countries of origin.”

“People are always mugged and robbed near that building. Last week, a white woman was robbed at the same place when she was dropping off her domestic employee and there are other similar incidents. For these reasons residents are lobbying for its demolition.”

“But the real matter is, the police and community should stand and fight crime. The building could be used for other things. It is on big land; it only needs to be fenced and renovated. We lack infrastructure here in Hout Bay. A youth centre could be established there.”

Malila said Ngoy was new in Hout Bay. His family lived in Saldanha Bay and he was studying at UCT and went to the library every day. On the day he was killed, City Council workers had warned him not to use the road, but he had not taken their advice and they had seen him being attacked by three men. He had refused to give up his bag which contained library books and a cell phone; there was a scuffle and he was stabbed.

By the time nurses from the clinic had arrived, Ngoy was already dead, said Malila.

He said the community was very angry because this was the second time a Congolese man had been killed in this way.

Ngoy’s uncle, Corneille Mwebu, said Ngoy, the fifth child among seven, had been buried at Saldanha Cemetery on 18 July 2015.

“I came here for safety because there is war in my country, now my nephew is killed like an animal,” said Mwebu. He said the murder had taken place during the day and near the police station.

“Clearly the police in Hout Bay are not doing their job properly. The government must really look into foreigners’ safety and protection in this country.”