Women’s hostel residents live in fear of illegal male occupants

    Helen Joseph Women's Hostel is a place of fear. Photo: Leseho Manala

    ALEXANDRA – Fear grips residents of women-only hostel

    Residents of Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel have lived in fear of boys and men who have been staying illegally among them for years.

    Last year, the residents signed a petition for their removal which the City of Joburg is apparently yet to consider.

    Councillor and resident at the hostel Ambe Maseko said the hostel was sanctioned for women’s occupation only and children, including boys, who are under 10 years of age.

    Maseko and hostel representatives Letha Molongwane, Lydia Nyatlo and Betha Sentsho fear the more than 20 boys, some who are now men, and others recently smuggled in from rural homes by other residents.

    Children play in courtyard oblivious to litter and health dangers at Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel. Photo: Leseho Manala

    The residents are threatened by the boys’ and men’s attitude when told to leave the hostel. “One of them recently shoved the councillor when she told him to leave the place,” Molongwane said. The fear mounted after an elderly resident was murdered in December 2018 and placed on a chair next to a window until suspicion was raised days later when she remained in the same position. Police investigations haven’t led to any arrest. The representatives said a male suspect was taken in for questioning but was released and apparently still lived at the hostel.

    Residents representative Letha Molongwane next to broken gas stoves and gas pipelines dislodged by men illegally staying at Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel. Photo: Leseho Manala

    “We are scared as no one seems to listen, with the authorities presumably waiting for another tragedy to occur,” Molongwane added. “Women coming home late after work are attacked next to or on entering the place, we fear walking in dark hallways and we have been forced to contribute for a private night security service.” She claimed that a woman was raped at night on 1 March this year outside of the building. “She escaped naked from an armed attacker when the security company’s vehicle stopped next to the scene.”

    They blamed the problem on certain residents who allowed men to stay in their rooms while they stayed with boyfriends elsewhere or at their work places.

    “When confronted and told to leave they [men] instead tell us we are old and ought to return to our rural homes despite our legitimacy here,” Molongwane said, alleging that one of the transgressing women was a member of the community police forum. “She knows best the rules of this place.” The transgressors were said to avoid residents’ meetings and didn’t sign the petition fearing that they would be asked to remove their male relatives who allegedly vandalise the hostel. “They have attempted to remove components of gas stoves and also the gas pipeline to sell resulting in a gas leak which could have ignited the entire building had Egoli Gas not switched off the supply in time,” Sentsho said.

    Majestic looking Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel conceals fear to female residents, Photo: Leseho Manala

    The representatives said some of the men who had apparently moved out, entered the hostel at night through broken burglar bars and left in the morning. All this contributed to the degradation of the hostel which included broken window panes, dislodged window frames, broken toilets and illegal shacks attached to the outer wall [of the hostel]. “When they [shacks] burn, hostel windows are shattered leaving us exposed to bad weather and criminal elements,” Molongwane said.

    Poor maintenance blamed for flooded bathroom at Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel. Photo: Leseho Manala

    Their plight has been aired on the local radio station and discussed in the legislature but to no avail.

    Molongwane said the police had been called in occasionally for criminal incidents but suspects who were taken away soon found their way back to the hostel. “A schoolboy who was once stabbed and taken to intensive care treatment, identified some of the males but they are still here,” she added.

    Wet, dark and scary hallway at Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel. Photo: Leseho Manala

    Apparently, Minister of Police Beki Cele was told of the hostel’s woes at a recent crime summit but no concrete solutions were suggested.

    By: Leseho Manala


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