The University of Pretoria has started upgrading the elevators in the female residences after events over the last three years have proven them to be a safety risk. New elevators have already been installed in the Groenkloof residences, while the elevators in Madelief and Magrietjie are still under construction.
So far, only the residences with more than 10 floors have upgraded their elevators, while the other, sometimes older residences are still waiting. The new Elenessa Passenger Elevators travel at a speed of 1.75m/sec and have built-in double brakes. They are user-friendly for people living with disabilities. The features include a voice guidance system, interphones and brail control buttons.
However, the projectis going at a slow pace. The older residences such as Klaradyn and Jasmyn, which are over 40 years old, have not yet received new lifts. These residences are experiencing continuous problems with their elevators. “Sometimes the elevator just stops and you don’t even know which floor you are on,” says Jabavu Magembe, a resident of Jasmyn. On 13 July 2009, a blind student at Klaradyn walked into an elevator shaft from the second floor. She didn’t know it was empty and she fell two meters down. The student was on her way to her room on the seventh floor. Luckily she only sustained a knee injury.
“We’ve had constant complaints about the lifts. Complaints about rumbling noises and students getting stuck between floors, but no life threatening complaints,” says Prof. WJ Schoeman, House Father of Klaradyn.
When asked about the precautions taken by the university to improve the elevators, Prof. Schoeman said that the university has replaced the electric motors and the closing locks. But they have not replaced the elevator car. The elevators are inspected monthly, yet there are still technical problems. Continued reports of these problems are proving fruitless.
The Contracts Manager of the Department of Facilities Management, Willie Kotze explained that the old elevators have old parts. This makes it harder to find spares to fix them. “All we can do at the moment is to keep maintaining them,” said Kotze. Funds and the time it takes to import the elevator parts are the greatest reason for the delay of the installations. According to Kotze, the installation cost per elevator is R1.8 million and the parts are imported from Japan. It would take ten months to install one elevator.
No specific time frame could be given for the installation of the new elevators for the remaining residences.