The owners of Union Arcade, the University of Fort Hare (UFH) student residence where a ceiling collapsed and injured a student on Thursday, have shifted the blame, saying it was in fact Buffalo City Metro’s fault it collapsed.
KEEN TO ACT: University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu Picture: SISIPHO ZAMXAKA
SKG Properties, the landlord of the residence in Arcadia Street in East London, told UFH vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu the building was structurally sound.
This was after Buhlungu and some senior university managers inspected the building on Thursday.
The property group claims the building’s pipes had been blocked because of the trench dug on Buffalo Street, which it said resulted in the ceiling collapsing.
The academic said the spotlight had wrongly been placed on the university following the incident.
“When things like this happen, the spotlight is on the university. Actually, the spotlight should be on SKG. The spotlight should be on the CEO, Mr Du Plessis.”
Buhlungu said the time for the landlord to make a quick buck was over.
“We are not going to allow any landlord to flout any of the regulations. I have seen the conditions, I have seen the collapse of the roof, and I am going to act,” he said.
SKG chief operating officer Rhett Shaw, who was with the university delegation during the inspection on Thursday, said blocked down-pipes caused the incident.
Shaw said it was because of the trench dug on Buffalo Street that the pipes of the building were blocked.
“Structurally, there is nothing wrong with the concerned building. The building is structurally sound,” he said, adding that it was not their responsibility to maintain the pavement, but the municipality’s.
“It had rained and water could not drain off,” Shaw said.
But Buhlungu was not hearing any of that. “This landlord is intransigent. This landlord is rude. People want to make a quick buck – that is what they are doing. They are doing minimal job fixing on the building. They do not want to take the responsibility. Instead, they are blaming other people,” he said.
Buhlungu said they had roped in a structural engineer who had told them the “roof cannot be trusted”.
An architect will also be roped in to further assess the building before a final decision was taken, he said.
“Our students are in danger and my job is to make sure the university complies with the law. The Department of Higher Education and Training has set standards and norms for buildings that are used as residences. This building clearly does not comply,” he said.
“It is not safe to have our students living here in the long-term.”
Buhlungu also discovered that there were three students sharing one room – something that should not be the case.
The collapsed ceiling has put the spotlight even more on student accommodation in East London. Earlier this month, the Dispatch reported that Walter Sisulu University students were living under appalling conditions at some of the institution’s residences.
Buhlungu said he had also discovered that UFH students were living in horrendous conditions.
“The conditions are terrible. I went downstairs to that place you call a kitchen. It is a shame,” Buhlungu was heard saying to the landlord.
BCM spokesman Thandy Matebese had not responded to e-mailed questions at the time of writing.