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Friday May 18, 2012

Lifts working again in 22 storey Durban block

A lift in one of Durban's oldest block of flats is working again - for the first time in more than six years - because of the dogged determination of residents who were eager to see the building return to its former glory.

Pensioner Willem Bester no longer has to climb 704 steps to his Becorrum Towers flat.

Residents of Bencorrum Towers in Prince Street, some of whom had to climb 22 storeys to reach their flats, celebrated with coffee at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the lobby of the building on Tuesday, when the lift was switched on.

The six lifts in the building stopped working through disrepair after the building was placed under administration when its municipal debt ballooned to millions of rand.

Maureen Rambhadursing, who owns two units in Bencorrum and who was recently appointed the building manager, said the repair of the lift was just one step in a long journey of turning the building around.

"The lift stopped working because of a lack of servicing and timeous repairs caused by, among other things, the various building management companies that mismanaged the building," said Rambhadursing. "This building is on the way up," she added.

Bencorrum is one of the biggest blocks of flats in the southern hemisphere, with 334 units that house more than 1 000 people.

Because of mismanagement, the building fell into debt with the ethekwini municipality for the non-payment of rates, water and electricity.

In the early 2000s the building was placed under administration. Last year, however, Rambhadursing led a rebellion which, in addition to a High Court ruling, saw the administrator voted out by the residents, who took back the building and decided to run it themselves.

Rambhadursing said that special levies were imposed on the residents to raise the nearly R400 000 required to fix the lift.

"We had to refurbish the entire lift. Essentially this is a brand new lift," Rambhadursing said. She added that while the building was still in debt, they were slowly chipping away at it.

Pensioner Willem Bester, who has lived in the building for 25 years, said he was very happy that things were improving.

He said he watched the building going from being one of the most soughtafter flats in Durban to being in a state of disrepair. Bester, who lives on the 16th floor, had to walk a total of 704 steps to and from his flat to buy a loaf of bread. "Now that this lift is working, it will change all that," he said. "There were many times that I felt trapped in my flat because I just did not have the energy to walk those steps."

George Kianga, who is disabled and lives on the 11th floor, was also pleased with the development.

"Thank God," he said.

Daily News

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