Singh’s world of worries escalates

2014-03-26 00:00

JAY Singh — who has been facing mounting pressure since a mall in Tongaat he was building collapsed last year — has battles on at least two more fronts.

In Phoenix, residents living in flats built and owned by Singh are challenging his right to the ownership of the properties in the Durban High Court, while in Newlands West, another block of flats semi-completed by Singh, is being inhabited by illegal squatters.

This is on top of the Tongaat Mall Commission of Inquiry which is currently investigating the reasons why the mall being constructed by Singh collapsed, killing two people and injuring 29 in November 2013.

But Singh’s camp is confident that they will successfully navigate the issues facing him, firmly believing the law is on their side and that they do not have anything to answer for.

Yesterday, the Phoenix Tenants Association (PTA) claimed in court papers before the Durban High Court that Singh was in breach of a sale agreement he signed with the eThekwini Metro that should have allowed the residents to take ownership of the flats instead of remaining tenants.

The PTA stated that both the city and Singh-linked Woodglaze Trading have a “pattern of non-compliance”, that the city has been complicit and that the city’s officials have features of “flagrant disregard to statutory requisites, municipal bylaws and other provisions”.

The association believes that Singh was only given permission to build the flats under the proviso that they would eventually be sold to the tenants in order to allow low income families the opportunity to own their own homes.

Other respondents in the matter include Singh-linked company Woodglaze Trading and the office of the MEC for Human Settlements.

Sathieseelan Naidoo, a leader within the PTA, said in a preliminary affidavit read into the court record that while he acknowledges the city’s attempts to provide housing, in this matter “serious irregularities have occurred”.

Residents allege they had a rent-to-buy agreement which was never honoured and are now questioning if in fact the city sold the land to Woodglaze Trading legitimately in the first place.

“I … challenge the [city] to furnish an explanation … [with] proof that they had sold the municipal property. The reluctant manner in which the eThekwini Metro has furnished [this proof], leaves me with the reasonable belief that the city is unable to justify their decision.

He said the purchase and sale agreement, which has been in part supplied, said the developer was required to develop houses for “onward resale to various prospective beneficiaries” but that this has been breached.

The association has been lobbying the high court for a favourable judgment against Woodglaze since June 2013.

The PTA’s contention that the city was withholding vital information relating to the sale agreement was dismissed by Judge AJ Nzi­mande.

Nzimande ordered that all affidavits be supplied to court in the course of the next month thereafter a new court date will be set.

Meanwhile, squatters who invaded a private property development owned by Singh and who had been evicted in December are back on the premises.

Squatter Ayanda Ngubane said on December 11 they were marched off the premises but hours later they returned.

“We need adequate housing and we are prepared to fight for these homes. We have been living in a transit camp since just before the Fifa 2010 World Cup, when we were moved from our informal settlement on Umgeni Road. But the conditions at the camp are terrible. No one has tried to evict us as yet, but we expect it to happen after the elections,” said Ngubane.

Singh’s spokesperson Pastor Mervin Reddy is however confident that Singh will also win the court case against the PTA, the squatters will be removed and by next year the mall will be open for business.

“What the PTA claiming is not true. Many of the tenants have bad credit records and besides not being allowed to get further credit they would be blocked from renting at numerous properties. Singh has a good heart and wants to help people. The PTA is not recognised by Singh and we question the organisation’s motives,” said Reddy.

He said the squatters in Newlands would be evicted eventually by the SAPS as it is now a criminal matter.

“We are humane and don’t want to behave like gangsters. We are working with the police on this matter,” said Reddy.

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