Thieves rip out the soul of old Natal­spruit Hos­pi­tal

CityPress - - News - ATHANDIWE SABA athandiwe.saba@city­

The old Natal­spruit Hos­pi­tal is be­ing taken apart piece by piece. Cop­per ca­bles, man­hole cov­ers and items of fur­ni­ture are be­ing car­ried out of the derelict build­ing by gangs of scav­eng­ing thieves.

Mbangwa Xaba, the spokesper­son for Gaut­eng’s depart­ment of in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, took City Press on a tour of the de­serted hos­pi­tal in Katle­hong on Joburg’s East Rand. The hos­pi­tal has been op­er­at­ing for more than 60 years and fi­nally closed its doors in Au­gust.

In the eerie pas­sages, wires that have been ripped from ceil­ings to be stripped of their cop­per hang loose.

Open man­holes pock­mark the sprawl­ing prop­erty – their cov­ers can fetch up to R300 apiece.

Xaba said: “There were all sorts of things left here when the hos­pi­tal closed down. The doors are bro­ken and latches have been re­moved as peo­ple break into the hos­pi­tal to see what they can take. Ev­ery­thing is for sale.”

In one room, an an­cient sewing ma­chine is slowly be­ing stripped of its metal parts. In the out­ly­ing pas­sages, light cov­er­ings have been smashed and ca­bles re­moved.

A huge flood­light out­side the hos­pi­tal has also been knocked over and stripped of screws and cop­per ca­bles.

The depart­ment has not been able to eval­u­ate the hos­pi­tal since it closed down be­cause it first had to be “de­con­tam­i­nated” by health of­fi­cials.

Now that has been done, the depart­ment will ap­proach res­i­dents in the area for sug­ges­tions on how the prop­erty can best be used to ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity.

Xaba’s depart­ment has em­ployed pri­vate se­cu­rity guards to pa­trol the grounds.

But a se­cu­rity guard, who did not want to be named, said that 50-strong crim­i­nal gangs reg­u­larly de­scend on the build­ing to rip it apart. He and his col­leagues are bat­tling to stem the tide.

“Th­ese nyaope ad­dicts come to the hos­pi­tal and over­power us. When the last in­ci­dent hap­pened, I had to take a taxi to call the po­lice. The gangs sell what they steal to the scrap­yards in the area,” he said.

He said that even the po­lice were afraid to ven­ture into the hos­pi­tal.

Xaba said his depart­ment was look­ing to boost se­cu­rity, while it was fi­nal­is­ing plans for the 115-hectare es­tate.

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