Asbestos roofs still haven’t been replaced in Stellenbosch municipal housing

Residents of Cloetesville flats say they keep asking for repairs to be done

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The roof of Mary Ann Rhode’s flat is broken, exposing the asbestos. Photos: Joseph Bracken.

  • Some of the Rhode Street flats in Cloetesville, Stellenbosch, still have asbestos roofs and at least one is broken.
  • Residents say they have reported this and other problems to the municipality for months but nothing has been done.
  • The municipality says the previous contractor ran out of funds and a new one is in the process of being appointed.

Some municipal flats in Stellenbosch still have asbestos roofs, and at least one is broken, exposing the family living there to health risks. The municipality says a contractor is in the process of being appointed to repair the flats.

Mary Ann Rhode has been in contact with the municipality since February of this year trying to get the roof above her apartment in Rhode Street, Cloetesville, fixed. The correspondence includes letters in which the municipality acknowledged the damaged roof and that they were working on sending someone.

When no one showed up to fix the roof, Rhode went to the municipal offices to query what was happening, she said. “They said they know about it and that they’re going to fix it, and nothing happened.”

During the winter Rhode and her family struggled to stop the apartment from flooding. The water caused a hole in their ceiling and made it sag, she said.

Rhode lives in the apartment with her husband, two daughters and niece. They were unable to use the sitting room due to the water damage and the danger of the electrical wiring.

Along with a chair and floor damage, Rhode’s television was also destroyed by water damage. To stop further damage Rhode and her family members had to go into the roof via a ladder to roughly patch up the area with plastic.

The roofing above the apartment is asbestos, which Rhode worries is making her and her family sick. Stuart Grobelaar, communications manager at Stellenbosch Municipality, confirmed that there are still units with asbestos roofing as the buildings were built many decades ago.

The wind and rain coming through the roofing could possibly stir up the asbestos in the roof cavity and cause it to come through the hole in the ceiling, said Raymond Douglas, a contractor at Ark Waterproofing, a company that works with asbestos roofing. This could pose a threat to the health of the inhabitants, he said.

Exposure to asbestos can cause diseases of the lungs including mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs.

Mary Ann Rhode and her family have to climb a ladder to fix their leaking roof.

Other tenants too have repeatedly contacted the municipality but have still not had their problems fixed, said Chris Januarie, a resident of the Rhode Street flats. Residents William Hendrikse and Magdalena Davids have been complaining to the municipality about their broken geysers for six months and over one year respectively.

“The geysers are some of the most common problems we have here in the flats,” said Januarie.

Hendrikse has been raising the issue of his broken bath. The lining in the bottom of the bath has cracked and now it won’t fill up properly. He has to use a bucket with water heated up over his stove to wash.

Grobelaar said the municipality had appointed a contractor to repair the flats but he had to pull out due to a lack of funds on his part, according to Grobelaar.

Supply chain management and the contracts management department are looking at the other bidders to appoint a new contractor, said Grobelaar. Once a new contractor is found repairs can begin immediately on the apartments. He said the asbestos roofing would be replaced with steel.

Douglas believes that the municipality should have already sorted out the problem of the asbestos in the roof.

“The municipality had two legal options to sort out the roofing,” said Douglas. They could have fixed it by sealing it, or completely replaced it.

Stellenbosch municipality says the asbestos roofing will be replaced when a new contractor is appointed.

TOPICS:  Health Housing

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