Once an iconic spot, the Point’s neglected Tong Lok building is now slated for demolition

2014-01-24 00:00

PLANS to tear down Durban’s notorious Tong Lok building in Mahatma Gandhi (formerly Point) Road are at advanced stage.

The building has been known as a haven for criminals for years, head of Safer Cities and the iTrump Unit, Martin Xaba, said yesterday.

Xaba said the city was tying up loose ends in the process to demolish two buildings — Tong Lok and Durban Tennis Club in Greyville. The city owns the tennis club.

“The notorious Tong Lok building had criminals living in it and it had become unsafe for people passing in the area. Because Durban Tennis Club is part of the city’s heritage we need to secure permission to destroy it. A concerted effort to deal with dangerous buildings is slowly yielding success,” he said.

“We are also working hard to clamp down on skyrocketing illegal accommodation in the city,” he said.

In 2013, the city identified 132 dangerous buildings as being a haven for criminals, fire hazards and offering cramped accommodation.

“We are waiting for the court rulings on a number of building that we profiled as being dangerous. But some owners came forward urging the city to give them a chance to fix their buildings,” said Xaba.

He conceded that the city was in danger of being overwhelmed by the challenges of neglected buildings. “We are dealing with the exploitative landlords and criminal elements in these buildings. But our dream is to make Durban one of the safest in the world. Tong Lok and Durban Tennis Club will be the first buildings to be demolished,” said Xaba.

The city is also concerned about the 12-storey West Point Lodge in Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment).

The building belongs to the Department of Human Settlements. In 2012, two children burnt to death in a second-floor flat after they were locked in by their mother, who had popped down to a shop.

Last week, a six-year-old child narrowly escaped death when she fell from the first floor where a section of the window pane is missing.

Xaba said negotiations with the department for the building to be transferred to the city were at an advanced stage.

“There are a number of buildings that belong to the department and need to be transferred to us for housing.”

Tenant rights group the Organisation of Civic Rights (OCR) chairman Dr Iqbal Mohamed, said the tenants face safety, health and fire risks in the building. “We met with MEC Ravi Pillay in 2012 and resolved that tenants would be provided better accommodation within six months. We are disappointed that two years later there is no progress to provide the promised secured tenure to the tenants while their lives hang precariously with uncertainty.”

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