Library services crippled in Nelson Mandela Bay

Some have not reopened since Covid lockdown

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Photo of Motherwell library

Motherwell Library has not re-opened after it was closed for the Covid lockdown in March 2020. Photo: Joseph Chirume.

  • The libraries of Motherwell, Zwide, Allanridge, KwaMagxaki and Chatty are not functioning.
  • This leaves the main townships of Gqerberha with only the New Brighton library, the northern townships with only the Gelvandale library, and the townships of Kariega with only the Khayelitsha and KwaNobuhle libraries.
  • For nearly a month the municipality has not replied to our questions

The last few years have been tough on libraries in Nelson Mandela Bay. After closing during Covid lockdown in March 2020, many were left to ruin and a number of libraries could not reopen in August 2021. Some of them are still closed years later.

Libraries in Motherwell, Zwide, Allanridge, KwaMagxaki and Chatty have all been severely vandalised. This leaves the main townships of Gqerberha with only the New Brighton library; the northern townships with only the Gelvandale library; the townships of Kariega with only the Khayelitsha and KwaNobuhle library; and Kwalanga residents with no library.

Photo of woman standing in ruins

Ward 35 Councillor Noline Moodley standing in the rubble of the vandalised Chatty Library. Photo supplied

Ward 35 Councillor Noline Moodley (DA) said the Chatty Library has been vandalised beyond repair. Learners in the area are struggling to do their school work without its services.

“I had endless troubles with drug addicted guys breaking everything down just for a quick fix. We had asked for the provision of security but all fell on deaf ears,” said Moodley.

“We went there to clean up on lots of occasions. But without security, it was just a wasted effort. Learners now have to travel to the West End library in ward 34,” she said.

The Motherwell Library never opened after it was vandalised during the Covid lockdown in 2020. Then in May and again in July 2022 it was damaged by fires.

It used to be well stocked and one of the few libraries offering braille services. The nearest library is 13km away in New Brighton.

“It baffles me to see a once beacon of our community falling victim to criminals, who, ironically, stay within this community,” said resident Edmund Ngwevu.

“The library was stacked with a variety of books, journals, magazines and newspapers that dated back several decades. I used to spend my free time here perusing old magazines and newspapers to educate myself about the struggle against apartheid.”

The province’s top performing public school, Soqhayisa Senior Secondary, is located less than 100 metres from the library. English teacher Thembi Mamatu said, “It’s heartbreaking that the library is not operating. It has been a pillar for our learners because the school does not have a functioning library.”

Physical Science teacher Phumeza Koyo said, “The closing of the library has badly disadvantaged our learners because they used to go there to learn by supplementing what we taught them and would get books that are not found at the school. Now they can’t do it.”

She said residents used the library and its computers, and could look for jobs and other opportunities. “So its continued closure disadvantages the entire community of Motherwell,” said Koyo.

Ward 57 Councillor Thembinkosi Maswana (ANC) is hoping the library will be refurbished this coming financial year. He said he was informed that R7-million had been set aside for this.

Ward 10 Councillor Lenny Moodley (DA) said the Gelvandale library was in an area with a high crime rate; learners travelling there were at risk.

“I am fighting to have a library here in Malabar. We have been abandoned for many years. Our children have no libraries. We have three informal settlements and I am starting my own project to establish libraries in all the settlements,” said Moodley.

GroundUp has tried to get answers to our questions about the libraries from the municipality for nearly a month.

Photo of library

People have to travel over 15km to use New Brighton library, one of the only functioning libraries in the townships of Gqeberha. Photo: Joseph Chirume.

Correction on 2024-03-14 08:24

The article was changed to reflect that Kariega's Khayelitsha library is still operating, while Kwalanga is without any library.

TOPICS:  Crime Education

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