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