The renovation of a local educare in Imizamo Yethu has not gone according to plan, with donors accusing a local contractor of leaving the job unfinished – and threatening their lives.
Renovations were done at the Siluncedo Educare, which was meant to be closed down last year after the building was declared unsafe by the City of Cape Town.
The renovations were funded through the fund-raising efforts of two German sisters, whose identities are known to Sentinel News but who only wanted to be identified as Coco and Cara, because they fear victimisation.
When the educare faced closure last year, they had been helping out in IY for nearly five years, and had already raised funds to have a jungle gym installed at the school.
“From that time, we also knew the teachers and other members of the community, which is why in December 2020, we were shocked to hear that the childcare will be closed for safety reasons,” the sisters said.
They highlighted that the roof, parts of the ceiling and other parts of the building had been in a really bad state.
“That’s when we decided to raise donations to finance the renovation of the building, so that the children can keep Siluncedo as a safe place for learning and growing,” they added.
The sisters started a fundraising campaign and managed to raise enough money to get the renovations going. Through a community leader, they were put in touch with a local contractor, Meridian Global, run by Glademore Kwinda.
“In the beginning, we were quite happy with the way the renovations were going, but with time, the work got messy and some of the promised repairs were not done,” they said, confirming that they were making weekly payments for the work carried out.
Sentinel News has copies of all invoices for payments made for the work carried out.
A week before the last payment was due, the sisters had requested Mr Kwinda to hand over the list of the material and labour costs because they wanted to show donors where the money was going.
“We did not receive that although we asked several times, which is why we explained to Mr Kwinda that we could only pay if we would get that list,” they said.
The sisters also claimed that he had threatened them.
Out of fear and knowing they had to return to IY at some stage, the sisters paid over the money and work continued, albeit slowly. Eventually, the work stopped, the job unfinished, and after a meeting with the sisters, Mr Kwinda and his team never returned to the educare, even leaving behind materials.
When Sentinel News contacted Mr Kwinda, he threatened the paper with legal action if we published any “false and fabricated” story regarding the incomplete renovations.
“I have a confirmation letter from the community and Siluncedo for satisfactory completion of all renovation work completed at our cost as the donor again did not provide adequate funds,” Mr Kwinda said.
At first, Mr Kwinda had promised to forward the letter to Sentinel News, but later replied: “The letter is confidential to us at this point.”
He maintained that he and his team had completed the work at the educare, which was agreed upon between the donors and contractor.
Mr Kwinda also questioned the donors, saying: “They must also send us evidence that they are donors. I don’t know them as donors. The money which they say they donated on the project, we need a proof how it was transacted from Germany to South Africa.”
However, principal at Siluncedo Educare, Thandeka Mcinziba, confirmed that the contractors had indeed left the educare site without completing the work.
She complained about shoddy paintwork, toilets and roofs that are leaking, rubble and rubbish which had been left behind as well as vents which had been removed and not replaced, or closed and not reopened.
“Everybody at the educare feels sad about what is happening and we are worried because we really need the help and a good place to take care of the children. They were supposed to renovate the entire building,” she said.
Siluncedo Educare opened their doors in September 2015 for parents who were meant to be at work early hours of the day. There are 65 children from the IY community attending the educare daily, where they are provided with two meals a day.
At one stage, the educare had been occupying the building illegally and there was no funding nor lease vailable to them due to the multiple compliance issues at the time.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas attended the very first on-site meeting where he was introduced to the German sisters, but was far from impressed at what unfolded.
“When we were on site, we were joined by other leaders from IY, who began to threaten the girls, demanding that they also renovate other parts of the premises which are occupied by a patrolling group, with permission by the City, and another after care type of operation that is also present without any form of lease,” Mr Quintas said.
“I advised them (IY leaders) that this aggressive, demanding, intimidating and entitled behaviour by leaders and community that sees willing donors working to uplift the community often only make such an attempt once.”
He confirmed that he recently received a call from the sisters’ lawyers, informing him that the project was indeed incomplete and that the contractor had intimidated the sisters and had not returned to the educare.
“I advised that the women should open a case of intimidation at the Hout Bay SAPS and that they they need to pursue legal recourse against the builder in terms of failure to complete works and reneging on their agreement,” Mr Quintas added.
Community development worker, Kenny Tokwe, who introduced the sisters to the builder, said he was trying to resolve the matter “amicably”.
“According to the principal, she was pointing out the outstanding work that she thinks should have been done at the daycare. That is why I want to meet the contractor and the daycare to see the outstanding things that were quoted on the agreement and to find a way forward,” he said.