THE main Port Elizabeth library, which was closed to the public a year after the historic building suffered severe water damage in 2013, requires millions of rands for repairs to be completed.
Nelson Mandela Bay municipal officials participating in a sports, recreation, arts and culture committee meeting this week revealed that unless the required funding was secured soon, the iconic Govan Mbeki Avenue facility could remain closed until 2019.
The library has been offering limited services from the nearby St Mary’s Cathedral hall since last year.
The facility was closed in 2014 due to health and safety concerns which arose from the water damage. Officials determined that nearly R34-million was required to complete the rectification of the building and return it to its original state.
Municipal officials however revealed that while about R15-million had been allocated to the repairs so far, there was a shortfall of R18-million, which was only due to be allocated in the 2018-19 financial year.
The Bay municipality’s sports, recreation, arts and culture head, Noxolo Nqwazi, confirmed that the estimated costs for the refurbishment of the library were more than R33-million.
“The budget we received was R15.7-million over three years. According to this item, we have a shortfall of R18-million which means we cannot open until after three years,” Nqwazi said.
“Phase one is currently being done, which is the cleaning [and storage] of the books. It will take about six months to finish. “The next phase would be to replace the roof, which includes the ceiling,” Nqwazi said.
ANC councillor Xola Sabani queried the role of the provincial department in funding the repairs to the library.
“What is the provincial government’s role in this, because it is their function?” Sabani said.
He questioned the estimated costs of R33-million, saying the provincial government was supposed to be dealing with the refurbishment.
Nqwazi agreed that responsibility for the library’s operation lay with the provincial Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture.
“Libraries are a function of the province, but people who [use] the service are local. “We have tried to get province to respond to the needs of our libraries but they said there was no money,” Nqwazi said.
In a report, Nqwazi has requested that the committee consider and endorse a proposal which would see the budget allocated for the repairs for the next two financial years brought forward to enable the repairs to be effected far sooner.
This would be referred to a mayoral committee meeting.
Committee chairwoman Siyasanga Sijadu said officials should note that the library was part of mayor Athol Trollip’s 100-days plan, which ends in six weeks’ time.