Philippi library closes after robbery and vandalism

“Why vandalise a library that your sister, brother and child needs?” asks ward councillor

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The library in Browns Farm, Philippi in Cape Town was robbed and vandalised on Monday. The facility, which is the only library in the community, has been closed. Photos: Sandiso Phaliso

  • The Browns Farm library in Philippi was badly vandalised and robbed on Monday evening.
  • The R60-million facility, which was the only library in the area, has now closed.
  • It is the third time this year that the library has been forced to close. Staff were robbed in February and again in May.

The only library in Browns Farm, Philippi, has been ransacked and badly vandalised amid the taxi shutdown that has rocked Cape Town for several days. The nearest library is about three kilometres away in Crossroads.

The cost to repair the R60-million facility is yet to be determined. Criminals stole and severely damaged books, computers and most other electrical appliances in the building. Doors and windows were also smashed. The ward councillor, Melikhaya Gadeni’s office, in the same building, was also looted and vandalised.

At 5pm on Monday we found mostly young people forcing themselves inside the facility, breaking the doors and windows. They walked out with boxes and computer screens.

Residents we spoke to condemned the violence, saying that many learners and job seekers in the community who frequently used the library would now suffer.

“It’s sad when people destroy the same resources that are meant to benefit them and future generations. The strike will come to an end, but the area will remain without a library and a community hall for a longer time,” said a community leader who asked that their identity not be published as they feared for their safety.

This is the third time this year that the Browns Farm library has been forced to close. Staff were robbed in February and in May.

Also last year in August, the library was closed for over a month because staff were robbed.

According to community members, people know the identities of the criminals, some as young as 13, but they are too scared to report them to the police.

Ward 34 Councillor Gadeni (ANC) said, “Why vandalise a library that your sister, brother and child needs? You vandalise a library teaching your mother and sister computer skills, and for what? Why vandalise your councillor’s office that you will need tomorrow when you have electricity, water and sewer challenges?”

“Do people know how much I had to fight to prevent the library from being closed? A R60-million facility is now gone just like that,” he said.

He said he felt “defeated” following the vandalism incident this week.

The doors and windows of the library were broken by looters.

Due to threats of violence related to the ongoing taxi strike, municipal services in communities such as Browns Farm, Philippi East, Nyanga and Samora Machel have been suspended and some schools and clinics closed.

Resident, Mthimkhulu Ntoni, told GroundUp that opportunistic criminals have been taking advantage of the taxi shutdown. “It is wrong to destroy the same facilities that the community benefits from. If this library ever opens again, we will be lucky.”

Resident Mzukisi Ngqola said he and other residents tried to call the police as the library was being looted, but the police never came. “These kids were breaking windows and the doors. People called the police, but we waited three hours before we gave up. This looting started after 5pm and continued until midnight. I’m disappointed in law enforcement because we as community members can only do so much,” said Ngqola.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for community safety and health, Patricia van der Ross, confirmed that looters broke into the Brown’s Farm Library.

“Given the ongoing volatility in the area, a full assessment of the damage has yet to be completed, but if this is indeed the worst-case scenario, the library would have lost at least 15 computers.

“These senseless acts of violence and intimidation have done nothing but hurt the affected communities. Stolen and damaged infrastructure will take time to replace; the impact on human resources at our clinics and libraries as staff rightfully take time to deal with the trauma, will affect service delivery. This in turn will directly affect our residents, and even some of the very people who have participated in these criminal acts disguised as protest action,” said Van der Ross.

She said libraries remaining closed due to staff shortages or volatility in the areas include Khayelitsha, Crossroads, Dunoon, Heideveld, Langa, Lwandle, Melton Rose, Mowbray, Nyanga, Philippi East, Scottsdene, Simonstown, Bloubergstrand, Eikendal, Tafelsig and Weltevreden.

Van der Ross said at least eight clinics were also forced to close, “in some instances by masked thugs who threatened and intimidated staff and clients”.

“Enforcement services had to be called in to assist with evacuating staff at the Blue Downs and Mfuleni clinics.”

The Youth clinic in Khayelitsha was also damaged and vandalised, said Van der Ross “We are awaiting confirmation of the extent of the damages.”

Books, documents and other items from the library lay strewn across the floor.

Update on 2023-08-08 15:31

This article has been updated to include comment from the City of Cape Town.

TOPICS:  Crime

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