Judge: Pilgrim's Rest state ownership 'strange'

2012-07-25 23:20

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Judgment was reserved on Wednesday on a bid by a number of Pilgrim's Rest business people to prevent their eviction from the historical Mpumalanga town.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria would rule on the matter on Thursday, presiding Judge Stanley Makgoba said.

The judge had listened to and examined heads of legal representatives for the applicants and the respondents.

"There are one or two matters that I must still look into. I reserve my judgment until tomorrow [Thursday] at 11.30am in this court," he said.

A group of business people approached the court, seeking an urgent interdict to prevent their eviction from business premises in the Pilgrim's Rest town in Mpumalanga.

The group, represented by advocate Francois Kriel, was served with notices of eviction, set to be put into effect at the end of July.

The business owners rent the properties from the provincial public works department.

Kriel said the historic gold mining town, which has been declared a national monument, was owned and run by the Mpumalanga public works department.

At that point, the judge interrupted: "This is strange to me. How can a provincial government department own a town?"

Kriel told the court there were irregularities in the way the tendering for the new leases was done by the Mpumalanga government.

The tendering process for the new leases had not been transparent and was exclusive to the current occupants at Pilgrim's Rest, said Kriel.

He cited an instance where a bidder who operated a business in the town and had offered more than R3 000, was turned down in favour of a bidder who offered R33 per month rent for the Pilgrim's Rest Golf Course.

For the respondents, Advocate Ignatius Bredenkamp SC said the business people were duly informed to vacate the premises by the provincial authority and should do so.

The respondents cited in the court papers included the Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi and Mpumalanga Public Works MEC Dikeledi Mahlangu among others.

Bredenkamp argued that the occupants were using the premises on a month-to-month basis therefore the notice of eviction served on June 29 should be considered valid.

There was contention around the group's lease agreements which they signed in 2008, with an expiry date of 2013. Bredenkamp could not explain why the provincial government back-dated the leases to 2006.

Judge Makgoba questioned Bredenkamp why the Mpumalanga government had put the premises out to tender, while there were still businesses occupying the properties.

The judge questioned the rationale of bringing in new businesses and removing the current ones, who had specialised licenses to trade in items like fuel and liquor.

"I did not get a guarantee anywhere that the people that are coming in have the requisite licencss. Certain goods require special licenses; I think you are putting me in a difficult position here," the judge told Bredenkamp.

Fear of job losses and panic gripped the sleepy Pilgrim's Rest town, as business employers and employees alike contemplated their futures if the provincial government is to execute the evacuation orders unabated. - Sapa

Read more on:    pilgrim's rest  |  travel south africa
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