Clubs in ‘white hands’

2014-08-22 00:00

MSUNDUZI Executive Committee (Exco) members were shocked to learn yesterday of city clubs, with mainly white members, leasing council land for R20 and R50 per month.

This was after findings of a long-awaited, city-wide lease audit were finally presented to Exco yesterday.

Councillor Thulani Xulu said he could not believe what a big chunk of the leases were in the hands of “minorities”.

He said it was ludicrous that the Maritzburg Golf Club paid council a nominal rental of R20 a month.

“This is where I pay a membership fee of R4 000,” he said.

Similarly he was surprised to find other clubs like The Wanderers also enjoying such nominal rentals.

“How well are the previously disadvantaged communities represented in these clubs?” he asked.

Xulu warned that the council had to be careful that it did not end up privatising the city.

Chris Scotcher, from Metgovis — the consultancy that carried out the lease audit — said they had recommended that many of the clubs that enjoyed council leases needed to be significantly transformed.

“They do not cater for the demographics of the city and they are paying a nominal rental, so they should be a public service,” Scotcher said.

Councillor Bill Lambert explained that these low rentals were known as “peppercorn rentals”.

Lambert said the city had a responsibility to provide recreation and other facilities. It could not always provide these services due to its many tasks, so provided the land and buildings, and entered into agreements with sporting bodies and societies to run the facilities.

Lambert said he agreed that the leases needed to be renewed. “Transformation — that is on our shoulders. We need to ensure it takes place,” he said.

Mayor Chris Ndlela said he was glad Scotcher spoke about the lack of transformation.

“It is our responsibility, a minority can’t rule over a majority forever. We cannot have a picture where a municipality for everyone has so many of its resources in the hands of a few,” Ndlela said.

Lambert also brought up examples like the Trizon Towers, the Giltime Parking lot, the old NBS building opposite city hall and the Carlyle arcade. He said these buildings were on council-owned land.

They were offered out at “ridiculous” rentals and for periods of 100 years and more. Yet the lease-holders were now letting them out at exorbitant rentals.

Trizon Towers was in the spotlight in 2011 over a multi-million rand rental scandal involving the KZN Department of Health.

Deputy municipal manager Dr Ray Ncgcobo assured councillors they will be sorting through the leases very carefully to ensure council’s interests and those of the broader community were represented. He said it was proving a challenge. “In some instances, the lease agreements are crafted very carefully to ensure that they benefited certain persons,” he said.

• The Metgovis lease audit has identified over 780 council properties that are being leased.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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