Resisters stall mall

2010-10-06 00:00

THE third-phase expansion of the Liberty Midlands Mall continues to be stalled as nine families, who have to move out of their homes to make way for the development, take their battle for compensation to the courts.

Twenty-two tenant families were affected by the project. Two moved out and the other 20 were offered compensation of R150 000 each to move. Eleven families accepted this amount and in August cheques were handed out to all of them.

Nine families refused the offer, believing they should be compensated at market-related prices.

Their lawyer, Sundeep Singh, said that in order to get to the bottom of the matter, he has asked council for all information relating to the transaction with the Midlands Liberty Mall Group.

He said that so far the information has not been forthcoming so the next step will be to file papers in court requesting the information in terms of the Access to Information Act.

Singh said the families want to understand how much council will be paid for the land and how it reached the decision to pay out the families R150 000.

It would also be interesting to know how council, which was cash-strapped in August, managed to get the money to pay the residents, he added.

Municipal spokesperson ­Brian Zuma said the compensation of R150 000 for being displaced was settled after protracted talks.

He added that all the tenants were also offered alternate accommodation at the Signal Hill Housing complex, which they declined.

Zuma said council’s offer still stands.

“It is hoped that the matter can be settled amicably, failing which council may have to consider alternative options,” he added.

He said meetings had taken place with the resident’s legal representative, officials, representatives of the Liberty Property Group and administrator Johann Mettler.

“Ideally council wants the tenants to co-operate willingly, but also realises that this may not be completely achievable. The future development of the land is equally important to the council as is the successful relocation of the tenants in order to achieve this goal,” Zuma said.

 

 

THE Liberty Midlands Mall expansion is expected to inject an investment of more than R1 billion into the city over a four-year period.

Around 2006, Liberty Group Properties (Pty) submitted a proposal to council to purchase land adjoining the property on Sanctuary Road for its third phase.

Due to the enactment of the Municipal Finance Management Act and its implications for property disposal, Liberty Group was advised that the matter could not be dealt with until council had adopted a land disposal policy. In February 2008, Liberty Group approached council again, with an offer to buy the land for R10 million, with R2,5 million as a contribution towards the relocation of tenants. However, the municipality wanted Liberty to bear the total cost of the relocation of the tenants. Liberty at the time said it wanted to build a hotel, offices and a value retail centre on the land.

There were further delays over a dispute about whether council or the Msunduzi Housing Association (MHA) owns the land. This matter went to court, while Liberty Properties went ahead and built its hotel in the parking area so as to be ready for the 2010 World Cup.

Administrator Johann Mettler reached a settlement with the MHA, unblocking part of the process. The final hurdle now is the issue of compensation.

 

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