Library shut for two years: Saturday Dispatch

Butterworth ‘white elephant’ only open few months

A MULTIMILLION-RAND library in Butterworth has been lying unused for more than two years, even though local ratepayers injected more than R6-million to build the new structure.

Pictures: MICHAEL PINYANA TERRIBLE WASTE: The Butterworth library that is yet to open its doorsThe library, which attracted hundreds of people and schoolgoing children when its gates were officially opened four years ago, was only opened to the public for a few months. It has been closed for the past two years.

Its condition was first brought to the attention of the public by the DA’s Veliswa Mvenya after she visited the area.

Mvenya submitted an oral question to arts and culture MEC Pemmy Majodina demanding an explanation as to why the structure was now “a white elephant”.

At the centre of the problem was a water valve which redirected water back to the building, affecting the foundation, a crisis which forced Mnquma mayor Baba Ganjana to order his maintenance officials to switch off water to the facility.

Not long after the water was cut, Majodina revealed, the library’s electricity bill skyrocketed to an extent that Eskom had to cut the lights.

The closure of the library, which is next door to Little Angels’ Primary School, cut short the excitement of more than 400 pupils who were getting used to browsing the shelves and finding the joy of taking home books to develop their reading skills.

University students have also been dealt a heavy blow by the closure of the facility.

Baphiwe Majezi, 27, is a student at Walter Sisulu University’s Butterworth campus and rents a room 200 metres from the dormant library.

He was one of the few people in the area who were lucky to have used the library for two years, but then it closed “forever”, Majezi said.

He said the library had been a breath of fresh air since he shares a single room with two friends.

“Having squatters in your room makes it very hard to study. But when this library was opened a few years ago, I was so excited because I had the space to do my assignments.

“We were not bothered by the fact that there were only a few books for primary school children. Having a quiet place to study was what mattered most to us as students.”

Mziyanda Mahamza, also a WSU student, said all they were told by the caretaker was that there was no water.

“A few months down the line, there was no water or electricity. Thereafter, the staff disappeared as well as the caretaker, leaving these gates locked 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mahamza said.

Butterworth residents said the only thing that remained of good use in the library yard was the swings which were erected for children.

“It’s not a library any more now. It’s a playing field for children,” Lunga Nyanda said.

Mvenya said there was no comprehensive planning for the maintenance of the library.

She said: “Accurate measures should have been put in place from the outset to ensure that this facility, which cost taxpayers R6-million, was managed efficiently.

“The importance of libraries in the upliftment of communities cannot be taken for granted. These facilities play a vital role in the improvement of literacy and education.

“It is inconceivable that an entire municipality, which encompasses three towns, is without a library.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, mayor Ganjana said he would be meeting Majodina soon as libraries were the competence of Majodina.

“I did address this issue with the former MEC [Xoliswa Tom] and it was receiving attention from the department. I have secured a follow-up meeting with the new MEC [Majodina]. We are going to attend to this,” Ganjana said.

Majodina said she was positive that the library would be fully operational by January next year. —