Free for all – residents strip old station

Before and after: The Caltex garage on the corner of Struanway and Daku Road has been stripped. All metal and bricks have been carried away, including an ATM.
Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

A Caltex service station that shut its doors on Monday has literally been carted off brick by brick in four days by Kwazakhele residents living nearby.

Only a shell of the station’s main building on the corner of Daku Road and Struanway was left by Thursday.

Doors, window frames, roof sheets, bricks from the walls and even the paving were removed within hours this week.

One of the men who helped himself to the material, but did not give his name, said: “Everyone is helping themselves.

“No one is stopping us, so why not take as much as possible?”

And the management of the service station did not actually seem to mind that residents were helping themselves.

Caltex Eastern Cape chief operating officer Pat Kelly said they had notified the police and the landlord they were leasing the property from, but no one seemed concerned.

“The police did basically nothing and the landlord said he planned on demolishing the building anyway so the community is probably doing him a favour,” Kelly said.

He said Caltex’s lease had expired and the landlord had offered them a new site across the road.

The old petrol station has been earmarked for a new parking lot.

The new service station recently opened its doors, and Caltex staff removed the last of their property from the old site last weekend.

“We appointed a security guard to watch over the old site, but the community threatened him and chased him away. Hours later the community started lifting the pavement and taking the building apart.”

A building contractor on site, who also declined to be named, said at one stage there had been about 200 people on site, picking the old service station apart.

Some were seen clambering onto the roof while others struggled to get away with overloaded cars and wheelbarrows.

Yesterday a man in a Toyota Yaris was loading his boot to the brim, putting his shock absorbers under so much strain that the car’s body rested on the wheels.

Kelly said their immediate action had been to secure all the equipment used for pumping fuel.

The fuel pumps were removed and underground fuel tanks, which will be removed at a later stage, were secured by filling them with sand. Contractors were also brought in to take down the canopy that covered the pumps

Themba Xasa, 35, a painter from New Brighton, said he was not going to let an opportunity like this slip through his fingers, as he loaded bricks into a wheelbarrow.

“I have a little building experience, and now I have the materials. Maybe I will build an extension at my house, or maybe I can land a job building for someone else.”

Kwazakhele mechanic Mike Thembani, 42, said a new section of paving at his workshop would have cost him thousands of rands, but now he could do it himself at no cost.

Kelly said the official opening of the new service station was scheduled for Wednesday.

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