City tenants stall mall

2010-06-15 00:00

TENANTS in Sanctuary Road Housing Estate, where the Liberty Midlands Mall is to establish the next phase of its expansion, have indicated that they will not move.

The tenants want to be paid market-related prices and they want the Liberty Property Group to negotiate directly with them instead of with the municipality.

The 25 tenants living in the council-built houses next to the mall were last year offered financial compensation of R150 000 per household by the municipality to vacate their homes in preparation for the mall expansion.

Some have taken up the offer and moved while others are digging in their heels.

The expansion will inject an investment estimated at more than R1 billion into the city over a four-year period.

The tenants told The Witness last week they want to know why they cannot be paid out market-related prices for the homes, which they do not own.

They believe the length of time they have lived on their properties entitles them to ownership. This is why they want to deal directly with Liberty Properties

The Witness has been reliably informed that many of the tenants who are refusing to move are not even supposed to be living in council houses because they earn too much to qualify.

Tenant Themba Lyons, a council employee and leader in the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), confirmed that they want to negotiate directly with Liberty Property Group for compensation.

“We were told that we had to vacate in December, but we have since not received any feedback from the municipality about our concerns,” said Lyons.

Another tenant, who asked not to be named, said their gripe about the compensation offer is that they were not kept informed during the discussions. He believes that, according to government legislation, if a housing project owned by the government is being sold, tenants get first refusal, and if they are not interested then it can be sold to other interested parties.

“We are not going anywhere until our concerns are addressed. If they force us, we will take them to court,” said the tenant.

The Witness has seen a letter sent to tenants in June last year, signed by acting deputy municipal manager for development services, Skhumbuzo Mpanza.

 

Mpanza wrote: “We would like to place it on record that these negotiations have far exceeded [their] deadline and that we cannot jeopardise a viable development for the city”.

The letter adds that the housing scheme is owned by the municipality and that all the people who occupy the houses are “merely” tenants.

“We also draw your attention to the fact that many of the residents do not qualify for the municipality’s housing scheme as their remuneration has exceeded the minimum criteria,” states the letter.

The letter threatened that if tenants did not vacate the premises by July 31 last year, legal action would be taken against them.

Sources within the municipality have alleged that the deal was scuppered by some greedy councillors in the ousted executive committee (Exco). They claim there was a hold-up first because Liberty Properties initially dealt with the Msunduzi Housing Association (MHA), which administered the Sanctuary Road houses. Exco did not accept this and allegedly disputed that there was any agreement by which council had handed over the Sanctuary Road houses to the MHA. Council took to negotiating directly with the Liberty Property Group. The MHA took council to court over the disputed agreement. The matter lay in limbo until the new administration took over.

Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler told Exco last week that the MHA has withdrawn the court case. In exchange, council will hand over certain parcels of land to the housing association as compensation for the Sanctuary Road properties.

Ward councillor Dave Ryder, in his Ward 25 newsletter, said the residents don’t know when they will be required to vacate their houses and when compensation will be paid to them. “This is a matter of great anxiety for them. It is a matter for the municipality to deal with. I am working with the tenants to try and get some answers from the municipality,” said Ryder.

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