Singh tenants tell court about drug ‘heavies’

2014-01-14 00:00

PHOENIX residents living in flats constructed and owned by controversial businessman Jay Singh have told the Durban high court they are being illegally evicted by “drug lords” and heavy handed security guards while the police fail to protect them.

In papers filed at the high court on December 31, the Phoenix Tenants and Residents Association, which comprises people living in several complexes built by Woodglaze Trading — owned by Singh’s wife Shireen Annamalay — have sought an order to prevent Woodglaze and its service providers from “assaulting, threatening, intimidating, harassing” residents and to “restrain from unlawfully evicting the applicants”. The matter is to sit before the court on January 31.

The flats were built in conjunction with the eThekwini Metro specifically for the low income bracket (people earning between R3 500 and R7 000 per month). Residents were expected to pass a city litmus test to qualify for the houses. The association represents 349 people who live in complexes including Ronnie’s Mansion, Eastbury and Tasneem Court.

In the association’s founding affidavit, it claims that Woodglaze and its employees and service providers “are relentlessly pursuing with these unlawful evictions, unabated and without fear of the law”.

It states that in a particular eviction “drug lords forced their way into a resident’s home” and ordered the “terrified children” out of the flat before destroying built-in cupboards, the toilet and furniture.

It further said that a security company acting on behalf of Woodglaze on the instruction to collect outstanding rent by visiting the defaulters at their home, Bambelela Surveillance and Protection Services, has consistently entered homes forcibly and illegally, damaged property and removed the tenants onto the street “without any court orders”.

The papers have also cited both the Phoenix SAPS station commander Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni and the SAPS provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, accusing them of exhibiting “blatant disregard for the safety of residents” for failing to act against the alleged illegal evictions.

The affidavit further claims the Phoenix police commander’s failure to act is due to officers living in the complexes that “they would not ordinarily have qualified for”.

This order is one of many brought by the cash-strapped association since May 2013.

The association is challenging both the city and Woodglaze over the ownership of the properties while simultaneously refusing to pay their rent, stating, among other reasons, that the complexes have been poorly built.

Singh rose to prominence in November 2013 when a shopping mall being built by his family in Tongaat collapsed, killing two people and injuring 29. Subsequently the eThekwini Metro revealed that the mall’s building plans had not been approved and was therefore illegal.

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