The family of a Hangberg grandmother rendered immobile by a triple stroke in 2012 is demanding answers from the City of Cape Town after it failed to accommodate her in a ground-floor flat.
The Wichman family lives on the uppermost storey of the four-storey Strandloper Hof apartment block, which is owned by the City.
Despite letters from doctors, physiotherapists and social workers requesting that Trudy Wichman, 59, be provided a ground-floor flat so she can be taken outdoors more easily, the family says their appeal is falling on deaf ears.
The three strokes suffered at the end of November 2012 also left Ms Wichman unable to speak.
“My mom is completely dependant on my sister and myself. We are right on top of the block, and it’s really difficult carrying her in her wheelchair down the steep steps. When she needs to go the doctor we have to rely on neighbours or even pay people to take her down the steps,” said Ms Wichman’s daughter Anneliese.
The family has rented the fourth-floor flat for the past 25 years.
Showing the Sentinel the health professionals’ letters stating her mother should be moved to a ground-floor flat, Anneliese said over the years she had repeatedly approached City officials at the local rent office for assistance.
“Although we were told our lease was lost in a fire at the rent office a few years ago, there was a copy at the City’s offices in Cape Town. We then learnt that my mother’s request for a ground-floor house was approved in 2013, but still nothing happened.”
In June this year, Anneliese discovered that the person who had been living in one of the apartment block’s ground-floor units had died. She then approached officials at the rent office believing this would be the perfect time to move the family downstairs.
“The officials then told us that this couldn’t happen, because there were still minors living there. But then they moved out, and the dead man’s sister moved in with her family. I then went back to the rent office and pointed this out. We were then told it would not be possible to do so as the family had personal issues they had to work out. I told them that didn’t have anything to do with us, when we’ve been waiting for a ground floor unit since the beginning of 2013.”
Anneliese said her mother’s condition was deteriorating because it was difficult to get her to regular physiotherapy and speech therapy appointments.
“Often there’s no one around to take her down the stairs. We are extremely frustrated with this situation. It’s almost been seven years since my mom had her stroke.”
City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said the City had not given the other family permission to move into the unit.
“The current occupation is unlawful and is being dealt with according to the City’s policies. The application for an eviction order against the illegal occupants is in process. Mrs Wichman’s application for a ground floor unit was approved but none have become available to date,” he said.