City trust gets notice to vacate premises

2012-11-21 00:00

THE future of one of the city’s landmark institutions is at risk following Tembaletu Trust being given notice by Public Works to vacate its premises in Burger Street, two years short of the initial lease agreement.

The letter terminating the lease came as a “bolt out of the blue”, according to Richard Ranjiah, director of the trust. “It was a shock. We knew our lease was coming to an end in June 2015 and we were starting to strategise alternatives.”

Ranjiah said he had hoped to negotiate a permanent arrangement with Public Works.

When the Tembaletu Trust was formed in 1989, they identified the building at 206 Burger Street as possible premises. “They had been left vacant,” says Rangiah. “They were boarded up and falling to pieces.”

The building belonged to Public Works and a lease agreement was entered into on the basis that Tembaletu would restore the buildings to a usable condition and maintain them thereafter while paying a nominal rental of R100 a month. The renovations costing R4 million were funded by the Murray & Roberts Sunflower Project.

Under the banner of the trust, the Tembaletu Community Education Centre has become a flagship organisation serving historically disadvantaged and marginalised communities, offering information, social services and education and training programmes benefiting adults, youth and children.

Apart from the trust, 11 other associate non-profit organisations (NPOs) occupy the premises. These include Umgungundlovu Community Radio, Programme for Survivors of Violence, SA Woman Entrepreneurs Network, Zizameleni Action Group of the Disabled and the Midlands Development Institute.

According to the letter from Ravi Pillay, MEC of Public Works, the reason for the termination of the lease is that provincial government “is renting private property for office accommodation at exorbitant rates”, and in “strict adherence to cost-cutting measures”, has “had to re-evaluate the use of all state-owned properties to determine whether they can be used by the provincial government for accommodation”.

Public Works spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said the importance of the Tembaletu Community Education Centre was taken into consideration when the notice of termination of lease was issued, but that “the needs of the provincial government took preference in view of exorbitant rentals paid on private property used for government purposes”.

Baloyi said a 12-month notice period was given to allow “sufficient time in which to find alternate properties”.

There was an earlier attempt to terminate the lease in 2005 due to the need for office space when the provincial capital relocated from Ulundi to Pietermaritzburg. “Tembaletu Trust then made representation to remain in the premises and the lease was allowed to continue,” says Baloyi. “The letting of this property at next to nil rental to Tembaletu Trust has forced the provincial government to hire space from private owners using public funds.”

Tembaletu Trust will now have to start looking for equivalent accommodation, says Ranjiah. “At commercial rates, that’s going to be quite a challenge, especially as funding is more and more difficult to access.

“The situation of the associate NPOs that occupy parts of the building is even more precarious. They will definitely not survive outside of an environment like this.”

• feature1@witness.co.za

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