Maverick Citizen

TRAPPED UPSTAIRS

‘The City of Cape Town has robbed my child of her freedom’: A mother’s plea for help

The journey of Bebin Krotz starts when the school bus drops her 14-year-old daughter Felicity outside Muir Court in Lavender Hill, Cape Town. She carries her child up three flights of steps to her flat on the third floor. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

For 14 years a Lavender Hill mother has had to carry her disabled child up and down three flights of stairs to and from their flat. She has applied to the City of Cape Town for a ground-floor unit to alleviate her and her child’s suffering — but to no avail.

‘Please help me, my child is too heavy for me to carry… I cannot take it any longer,” Bebin Krotz (35) told Maverick Citizen.

Her daughter, Felicity, now 14, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly. She was left paralysed from the waist down and also has water on the brain.

For the past 14 years grandfather Benjamin Krotz, 68 (left), and Bebin Krotz (right), have made sure that Felicity Krotz has been carried safely up three flights of stairs in Muir Court, Lavender Hill in Cape Town. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Since birth Felicity has been staying with her mother and grandfather, Benjamin Krotz, in his third-floor flat in Lavender Hill, Cape Town. Carrying Felicity up and down the stairs as a baby wasn’t an issue.

The proud grandfather loved carrying his granddaughter, but when his health deteriorated he could no longer do so. As Felicity grew and became heavier over the years, carrying her up the stairs became an arduous task. 

The situation deteriorated when Felicity started attending Agape School, a special needs school in Mitchells Plain. The bus collects Felicity at about 7am. Her mother first carries Felicity’s wheelchair down and then Felicity.  To make sure that Felicity does not miss the school bus her mother makes sure they arrive on the ground floor 15 minutes early.

“Gangsterism and sporadic shooting incidents happen regularly in Muir Court. That 15 minutes while waiting for the school bus is a matter between life and death. While standing there we can be caught in the crossfire,” Krotz said.

Bebin Krotz, with her 14-year-old daughter Felicity in her arms, begins walking up the first set of stairs in Muir Court. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Maverick Citizen witnessed first-hand recently how her mother picked up Felicity as she got out of the school bus. 

She carries Felicity about 30m to the first set of stairs. She stops again before taking her up the second flight of stairs. She repositions to make sure that Felicity is safe in her arms. On the last few steps, she gasps for air, perspiring and struggling to hold on to her child. 

On the second flight of stairs, Bebin Krotz begins to get out of breath while carrying her 14-year-old daughter Felicity. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Once inside the third-floor flat, she puts Felicity into the nearest chair, then leans against a chair, struggling to catch her breath.

“My child wants to be outside and play with her friends. There are children who want to play with her, but none of them can carry her down. If we live downstairs then she will have the freedom to play outside.

“The City of Cape Town has robbed my child of her freedom. By denying us as a family a ground-floor flat or a house they keep my child hostage. My child gets frustrated. She cries when she gets out of her wheelchair and cannot get herself down the steps,” Krotz said.

By the third and final flight of steps, the climb has taken its toll on Bebin Krotz as she carries Felicity. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Grandfather Benjamin Krotz takes out a letter from Red Cross Hospital, dated 17 September 2014, explaining Felicity’s medical condition. At that time Felicity was seven years old and the letter was addressed to the Housing Official, Cape Town City Council. The hospital requested that the family be moved to the ground floor based on Felicity’s medical condition.

The grandfather said: “I’m so tired of fighting with the City of Cape Town’s rent office in our area. I’ve been to the housing office many times and no one can help us.

An exhausted Bebin Krotz and Felicity are relieved and safe inside their home. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

“I’ve seen ground-floor flats going vacant in Muir Court and new tenants moved in. How long must we wait — or must something happen to my grandchild or daughter before the city gives us a ground-floor flat?” 

Sitting in her favourite chair, Felicity said: “If I want to go outside it is always a struggle. I want to go play outside with my friends. That’s why I want to live downstairs and it is easier for me to go outside.

“Yes, sometimes I feel trapped inside my house because my mother first has to take a wheelchair downstairs before she can take me downstairs.”

City of Cape Town spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo confirmed the city was aware of Benjamin Krotz’s request to be transferred to ground-floor accommodation. 

The request, he said, had been approved on a priority basis for medical reasons, but: “Unfortunately, no ground-floor vacancies have become available and therefore Mr Krotz has not been assisted yet.” DM/MC

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All Comments 26

  • For goodness sake. Surely someone has moved out in 7 years! And if not, there must be someone younger and healthier from the ground floor who can walk up 3 flights of stairs? This is really unacceptable.

  • Total incompetence. Not a good reflection on the City of Cape Town. The application has been prioritised? For 7 years? Let us see a positive outcome soon.

  • So either there have been flats available and someone in CoCT made a mistake, or there haven’t and the family is fudging things in the hope they’ll get a ground floor flat sooner rather than later… Aiii.

  • When will people stop expecting strangers to solve their problems for them. Why blame the City of Cape Town…they owe you nothing. You’re lucky that there is someone polite enough to be answerable to the journalist! In other Mu icipalities, the phone wouldn’t even be answered because the Municipality has not paid its Telkom bill for months!!! The rate payers of Cape Town owe you nothing. Life owes you nothing.
    I’m sorry your daughter is physically compromised and things are difficult for you. However, Charity begins at home. Your family and Community have to step up and help you. You have to make things happen for yourself……sadly no one is going to do it for you. That’s the reality of life.

  • So you’re going to be shot at and killed because you have to wait downstairs for 15 minutes in the morning, but at the same time you want to spend all afternoon playing outside? Really makes me question the integrity of the complainant and whether there genuinely have been vacant units that haven’t been allocated. Does the Daily Maverick these days just jump at any opportunity to vilify CoCT?

    • Their main gripe seems to be the DA and anything that has to do with the DA. Homelessness and poverty is everywhere in SA, but somehow the bulk of reporting on social justice topics seem to concentrate on CPT.

      • The DA is able to balance the books and not much else. As a public representative this falls short in South Africa and a comparison to either ANC or EFF in this context is irrelevant. If the DA could just prove itself as a CARING political party, it could actually have a significant impact on South Africa and actually expand its support base..

  • very sad story, very confusing headline
    How can the City of Cape Town have robbed something from someone who never possessed what is allegedly being robbed?
    If you want sensational headlines and real scandal, come to the Durban City Council where robbing the citizens has been developed into a fine art.

  • I think your neighbours are not very caring. They see you struggle every day and do nothing to help.
    Shame on your neighbours. Seek a Sponsor for an electric winch?

  • My heart goes out to this mother and little girl. Their lives are very hard.
    However, I find it disgusting that there is no compassion or support from her community and secondly that gangsterism is protected on the Cape flats. Sure, the government could help. Who are the people in charge? But to then blame this on white people!! And saying it is right to want to kill white people – think again girl! Are there only white people in government? I think not. Are the gangsters white? Why this racist hate speech? Why always fall back on hate? Nobody did this to you. People can help – people like your neighbours, family members and the community leaders. Where are they? Shame on them and the gangsters.