Families face eviction from CBD building

2012-05-28 00:00

THE Msunduzi Municipality has been given permission to inspect a building owned by Pietermaritzburg businessman and attorney Surendra Singh, from which it suspects that electricity is being illegally supplied to another building owned by Singh.

Singh is a director of the company that owns Shepstone House — a 13-storey building in Langalibalele Street — which rents retail and office space to commercial tenants on the ground floor.

The municipality has taken issue with Singh over the 20 families to whom he admittedly rents accommodation on upper floors of the building, without an occupation certificate.

Municipal manager Mxolosi Nkosi alleges that the tenants’ lives are “at immediate risk” and they should be evacuated “forthwith” according to a report by fire prevention officer Roger Trenam.

The case was sparked by an urgent application brought by Singh against the municipality on May 11, asking the court to order the municipality to restore electricity and restrain its employees from “interfering” with electrical connections at Shepstone House.

Msunduzi lodged an urgent counter-application on Thursday, accusing Singh of acting in bad faith and not disclosing earlier court orders against him dating as far back as 2002.

Nkosi said municipal meter readers had reported in February that the meter room at Shepstone House was “inaccessible”.

It was found to be under water and strewn with rubbish.

He alleged Singh had promised to make it safe and keep it locked at all times, but did not comply. The electricity supply was then disconnected.

During subsequent inspections, lights were seen in the building and it was suspected that electricity was being sourced illegally.

A team visited the adjacent Nedbank building (which Singh also owns) to check if it was the source, but Singh refused them entry.

Singh confirmed that electricity for Shepstone House was being sourced from the Nedbank building and said he has done so legally since 2011.

He said he had installed the bulk meter on the advice of Ben Dorfling, a turnaround team member at the time the municipality was under administration.

However, Nkosi said there could only be one bulk meter per building, unless the two properties were consolidated in the deeds registry.

Singh admitted he did not have an occupation certificate in respect of Shepstone House, but said he had been trying to no avail to apply for a certificate since November 2010.

He said the building was safe, with the fire-fighting equipment being upgraded to include “the most modern equipment available”.

In terms of an interim court order, municipal officials are authorised to enter the Nedbank building to inspect the bulk meter and electrical connections, and to terminate the municipal supply “from whatever source” to Shepstone House.

The municipality is also asking the court for authority to evict the tenants, but this was not part of the interim order granted yesterday. The case will return to court on June 5.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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