Explain drop in value of ‘eyesore’, demand MPLs

2013-05-20 00:00

THE decline in the market value of the Westpoint Lodge, a property owned by the Human Settlements Department, raised the eyebrows of members of the KZN Legislature on Friday.

Members of the portfolio committee learnt that the eThekwini Municipality valued the Westpoint Lodge at R5,9 million, while an independent evaluator estimated its market value at R5,2 million. The 12-storey property was bought for R7 million in 2002.

“It is very unusual to buy a property in 2002 and then it drops in value in 2013 to R5,9 million in terms of municipal valuation. To me something sounds not right in the transaction,” committee member Mthandeni Dlungwana said.

He called for an investigation after the department had made a presentation to dispose of the property situated in Margaret Mncadi Road (Victoria Embankment).

“We must look into this prior to disposing of the property. We can’t allow this in this day and age. We expect a lot of explanation,” Dlungwana said.

His sentiments were echoed by another committee member, Mbali Fraser. “We need to check this. Let us not sell it,” Fraser said, adding that an investigation should be conducted until satisfactory answers were provided.

The department’s chief operating officer, Mdu Zungu, said there was a history in the decline of the property’s market value. He was referring to the irregular purchase of the building at an inflated price when it was earmarked as a donation to the municipality for social housing.

He said the circumstances around its acquisition were the subject of a court process that had led to the imprisonment of a senior departmental official.

Zungu said the property was in a bad state and had caught fire a year ago.

“It is an eyesore in the whole of eThekwini,” Zungu added.

Earlier, the committee was told that the department was in the process of disposing of Westpoint Lodge. There are 18 families occupying the property and only emergency repairs are being done, according to a report tabled at the meeting.

Public Works MEC Ravi Pillay said the use of the property for student accommodation was a priority and that if negotiations with DUT failed, other options to dispose of the property would be considered.

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