‘Schubart Park renovations would cost R900m’

2012-08-23 13:57

The City of Tshwane will have to spend R900 million on renovations to the dilapidated Schubart Park complex in Pretoria, the Constitutional Court heard today.

This is according to the council’s attorney, Mzizi Mphaga SC, who asked the court not to grant an appeal by 700 families evicted from the rental complex by the council last year.

Mphaga told the court that it would cost the same amount of money to demolish and rebuild a new structure, which would house more people than to refurbish the 22-storey buildings.

The Schubart Park Residents Association applied to the highest court in the land to have an order by the North Gauteng High Court, which effectively upholds the eviction of the families in September last year, set aside.

But the council has argued that the buildings are uninhabitable and a danger to the public and residents.

Mphaga asked the court not to interfere in the “factual” findings of the council’s own fact-finding mission which found that the living conditions were “dangerous”.

Mphaga also said that the City of Tshwane would not be against any order to force the two parties to go back to the drawing board and resume negotiations to find a solution, but only if the order is made by the court.

“The door is not closed on negotiations,” said Mphaga, adding that it was the residents who refused to engage with the council.

Inspections to the building also found that it was dangerous for children to live in.

Mphaga said the city had tried in vain to get residents to engage with the council but these attempts had failed.

It is estimated that between 5 000 and 8 000 residents, some of whom were allegedly illegal immigrants, lived in the flats before the violent protests broke out last September.

Mphaga said the city had offered all 700 families alternative accommodation but only 180 people had come forward to apply for this accommodation, which includes flats around the city.

But counsel for the residents, Rudolph Jansen SC, said the council illegally evicted residents without obtaining an order from the courts.

According to the law eviction orders have to be granted by a court for a resident to be evicted, said Jansen.

“Whether the building is a danger or not the fact is that residents have a right to occupy that building and they want this court to restore them to their homes,” said Jansen.

He said the council lacked political will to return families that were displaced to their homes.

Jansen said all the residents wanted was for the court to order their return to the building and for the council to reconnect electricity and water which was disconnected last year, leading to the violent protests.

“We say it would be safe for the families to return to the building, although there are certain dangers with the building,” said Jansen.

Schubart Park and the neighbouring complexes have been scenes of violent protests in the past five years.

In 2008 violent protests about the bad state of the building in nearby Kruger Park left four people dead, including a toddler.

The Constitutional Court reserved judgment in the matter.

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