Two derelict state-owned cottages on the historic Waterloo Green are a dump for waste and rats and the scene of several police raids that have netted fugitives sought for a range of crimes.
Mattresses and blankets cover part of the thatch on one of them, appropriately called Ye Olde Thatch. Its double door stands open, the sash windows too, and yet the gate is locked.
Next door, broken shutters flap in the wind, glass panes are smashed and doors hang off their hinges at what was once a grand Victorian home. The property opens onto a cul-de-sac. Behind a rat scurries through knee-high grass littered with rubbish.
The zinc roof is burnt, the security gate forced open. A dishevelled man answered a knock at the door and cautiously identified himself as Leon Arendse.
He said he had lived in the house for eight months and had three trespassing cases against him. Two other people live in the section with the burnt roof, caused from their cooking, and others live in the thatch cottage.
Mr Arendse said he was trying to keep the house clean but rats were tunnelling underneath it.
On Tuesday April 11, Nic Louw, owner of a property in the area, sent pictures of the derelict buildings to the Bulletin.
Mr Louw, an architect, said the thatched cottage was “most certainly of heritage significance”.
He has reported the buildings to the City of Cape Town’s problem building unit.
Ameerah Peters, personal assistant to the CEO of Heritage Western Cape, Mxolisi Dlamuka, said any property 60 years old or older had general protection under the National Heritage Resources Act and a permit was needed from Heritage Western Cape before any alteration, addition or demolition could happen.
Wynberg police spokesperson Captain Ntombi Nqunqeka said a number of people had been sleeping on the property for some time.
Police raided there often, she said, and regularly found people wanted for various crimes, including burglary, theft and drug possession.
Since November last year, she said, police had arrested 17 people for trespassing at the houses and most had been carrying copper pipes at the time.
Captain Nqunqeka said the thatched house had once been home to the Simon’s Town police station commander, but that hadn’t stopped thieves stealing a geyser while she was still living there.
City spokeswoman Hayley van der Woude said the problem building unit and the environmental health directorate were investigating conditions at the properties and, if necessary, compliance notices would be issued to the owner, the national Department of Public Works.
The Bulletin contacted Department of Public Works regional manager Frederick Johnson on Wednesday April 12 and again on Tuesday April 18. He acknowledged receipt of our questions, but did not respond by the time this edition went to print.
Around 1885 Waterloo Green was the playground of children attending the small, rural school housed in Glebe Cottage, across from what is now one of the busiest arteries in Wynberg.
Dr Jerry Rodrigues, of Plumstead, who grew up in nearby Church Street, says Glebe Cottage has variously served as a church, a hospital, a school and even a milking parlour.
He says it was originally used as a hospital for the Wynberg Military Camp.
In 1836, Lady D’Urban, wife of the British governor of the Cape, started the School of Industry for Girls to prepare pupils for a career in domestic service, and this school was first housed in Glebe Cottage. At some point, the first Wynberg Free School, now known as Wynberg Boys’ High School, was based in a room in the cottage, but the school moved to Bryndewyn Cottage at the corner of Aliwal and Tennant roads in 1845.
The word “glebe” means land attached to a parish church. Dr Rodrigues points out the irony of the fact that Glebe Cottage, the oldest building in Wynberg, falls just outside the historic Wynberg Village area.
Glebe Cottage was declared a national monument in 1974.