Sanctuary Road’s last 14 tenants’ eviction ordered

2011-05-30 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG high court Judge Malcom Wallis on Friday granted an order authorising the Msunduzi Municipality to proceed with the eviction of 14 tenants of the Sanctuary Road housing scheme by July 7, to make way for extensions to Liberty Midlands Mall.

But their attorney, Sundeep Singh, confirmed yesterday that they will appeal the ruling, both in respect of the main application by the municipality, as well as a counter-application lodged by the tenants in respect of the dispute over their continued occupation of the houses in question.

The 14 tenants — occupying 10 houses in the scheme — are the only remaining stumbling block to the planned sale of the properties by Msunduzi to the Liberty Properties Group, which proposes a half-a-billion rand extension to the shopping mall.

Most of the tenants in the housing scheme vacated their houses voluntarily following negotiations with the municipality.

In court papers the remaining 14 tenants contended they are lawful occupants of their houses in terms of lease agreements, and that the municipality has no right to evict them.

They argued that the municipality is not the lawful owner of the properties in question in terms of the current title deeds, but that the former Pietermaritzburg Transitional Local Council was.

However Judge Wallis rejected these submissions and ruled that an “unbroken chain of legislation” had the effect of transferring ownership of the housing scheme to Msunduzi Municipality, even though the title deeds do not reflect this.

The judge said each of the leases, which provided the only foundation for the tenants’ occupation of the houses, had lapsed almost a year ago.

He said they are clearly occupying the houses against the will of Msunduzi Municipality, which is the lawful owner.

“The facts clearly demonstrate that the respondents do not have the lawful right to occupy the premises and Msunduzi Municipality is entitled to seek their eviction.”

The judge said it is not the case that the tenants in question have nowhere else to go and would end up homeless if evicted.

Thirteen of the respondents cited in the case have good jobs and the 14th is the spouse of one of the other respondents.

Most are employed in the public service and some even with Msunduzi Municipality, and are in a financial position to pay rentals greater than what many other people in South Africa can afford.

“They have the resources to provide for themselves and their families,” he said.

He said Msunduzi Municipality had at an early stage entered into negotiations with the tenants of the housing scheme and made various offers, which those who remained chose not to accept.

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