Squatters take on Singh

2013-12-05 00:00

SQUATTERS have invaded every single unit of the Jay Singh housing development that was ordered halted just last week.

And yesterday Singh — the tender tycoon who was behind the collapsed Tongaat mall and who has netted more than two billion rand in city contracts in the last 10 years — blamed the mass invasion on the regulators who are now investigating his alleged illegal housing developments.

Last week the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) obtained a Durban high court order forcing Woodglaze Trading, owned by Singh’s wife Shireen Annamalay, from continuing with construction of its R520 million, 96-unit complex in Newlands West. The flats were being developed for the low-income rental market.

Singh, in a statement, laid the blame for the invasion clearly at the NHBRC and the continued “attacks” against the many businesses owned by his family and business associates.

“The police failed to remove the illegal occupants. The squatters are capitalising on the recent attacks on [my companies] and the decision by the NHBRC to stop all work,” said Singh.

Late yesterday evening Singh’s right-hand man Pravesh Inderjeeth, through their attorneys, applied for an order from the same high court to enforce the eviction of the squatters, believed to number 300 people occupying the property illegally.

KS Security manager Bongani Manzini said his four guards stationed on the sight were “forced” to let through “at least 50 squatters for their own safety” at 2 am.

“The squatters were armed with hammers, screwdrivers and spades. They started breaking down the doors and windows and then started removing building materials and equipment while stealing copper piping,” he said.

Manzini said the number of squatters “moving in” continued to grow throughout the day.

KS Security is owned by Pravesh Singh, Jay Singh’s cousin.

When The Witness arrived squatters, all from the Polokwane Transit Camp about two kilometres away from the housing development, marked their names with paint on the doors and were fighting among themselves over ownership. Mothers were present with their children while many had brought food, and brandished knobkerries, in the fear that if they left their home it would be taken by someone else.

Squatters had erected makeshift beds and curtains and said they were “calling a plumber” to come and connect the water. Four flats with partially completed roofs were also grabbed.

Ndumiso Dlamini (30) said he knew they would be evicted but said the invasion was in protest at the lack of delivery of low-cost housing by the municipality.

“We took this property because we know it belonged to Singh. We believe he acquired the premises illegally and that this land should be for the poor living in the transit camp,” said Dlamini.

Last week the NHBRC obtained the order on the grounds that Woodglaze Trading had not registered the development with their regional office, a legislative requirement, making the construction technically illegal.

Once housing developments are registered, the NHBRC said they are able to provide oversight and quality control.

The order restrained Woodglaze from further construction, eThekwini from issuing an occupancy certificate and the provincial deeds office from transferring the property.

It ordered Woodglaze to apply for registration before December 6.

NHBRC spokesperson Molebogeng Taunyane confirmed Woodglaze has not yet “enrolled the project”.

Last week the NHBRC stated it will investigate all of Singh’s housing projects, which number at least 18 projects from Inanda to Kingsburgh.

Singh rose to national prominence in November when a mall in Tongaat, owned and under construction by his family, collapsed killing two people and injuring 29.

There have since been calls by the eThekwini political leadership to have Singh and companies linked to him, blacklisted from any further council work. Singh is also facing legal action from residents at several Phoenix housing developments owned by his family, for allegedly failing to honour an agreement that stipulated the tenants would be allowed to become the owners of the homes after renting for a three-year period.

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