Evictions worrisome

2019-06-04 06:00
Maintenance work at Athlone Stadium is underway. PHOTOS: NOMZAMO YUKU

Maintenance work at Athlone Stadium is underway. PHOTOS: NOMZAMO YUKU

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In an ongoing battle for Athlone Stadium, tenants face renewed eviction efforts by the City of Cape Town on Saturday 15 June.

The South African Football Association Cape Town (Safa CT), Itheko Sports Management, Cotton and Stitch, Cape Music Institute (CMI) and Prime Logistic Solutions have been renting suites on the second and third floors of the stadium since 2015.

Tenants say they are not ready to move as the City has been giving them the run-around about their future at the stadium for the duration of the maintenance work.

The stadium previously had eight tenants, the majority of which are still operating. They say the City should give them three months to find alternative places instead of facing indecision, as they have over the past few months.

The problem started after the tenants allegedly rejected a rental increase in the region of 400% in May 2018.

Talks of eviction began shortly after and tenants feel there is more to it.

Tenants claim executive director for economic opportunities and asset management, Kelcy le Keur persistently ordered they leave while Mayor Dan Plato and Mayco member James Vos reassured them that they would not have to move, saying the work would carry on while they remain in the suites (“Stadium saga addressed,” People’s Post, 5 March).

However, in a statement released last week, Le Keur announced the stadium would be closed from Wednesday 15 May and that all tenants were issued notices beforehand (“Stadium closed for maintenance,” People’s Post, 21 May).

Le Keur says this will ensure the stadium’s readiness for the next soccer season in August.

She adds the City needs to complete necessary alterations to ensure the stadium retains its grading certificate status, saying “this is not negotiable.”

Tenants admit receiving the notices four times between December last year and now.

They say their hopes were raised by the promises made by Plato and Vos and they saw no need to continue looking for places to run their business or non-profit organisations. “The City asked us to move here in 2015, the suites which were meant for VIP guests during big events were empty and they were being vandalised,” says Farouk Meyer, managing director at Itheko Sports Management. He says the place did not comply with some safety requirements.

Meyer says the City upgraded the fire alarms and fire extinguishers, and employed security guards.

Another tenant that has invested over a R140 000 is the CMI.

Faith Pretorius says CMI is saddened that all the investment they made at the stadium would go down the drain.

She says because they have a lease agreement with the City, they would be able to remain on the premises until they find a suitable alternative.

“We have even paid our rent upfront, this is a loss and inconvenience for us,” Pretorius says.

Brendon Lottering of Cotton and Stitch says they have explored all avenues to prevent eviction, to no avail. He says they suggested an external evaluator to verify the incompliance, but the City chose to ignore it. Lottering says the stadium is convenient for running small businesses and they have always been obedient to the City whenever there were big events; agreeing to close their business at 12:00 on most days.

Safa CT has been part of the battle with the City for months now.

President Bennett Bailey says they refuse to leave because the organisation serves the purpose of the stadium, which is hosting soccer games and uplifting local talent. He says the eviction is unreasonable and “it looks like there is a hidden agenda behind this.”

Bailey finds the annual maintenance talk by the City surprising. He says the only major work he has seen over the six years was the fixing and maintenance of the pitch, usually done without directly affecting them.

Additionally, Bailey claims the City refused to get into a long-term contract with Safa CT for the duration of their operations from the premises.

In response Le Keur says: “The City’s priority is to ensure the Athlone Stadium is compliant with the requirements of the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act (SASREA) No 2 of 2010, which is national legislation.

“Safa has been advised that the City cannot enter into a lease agreement with the organisation. The City has to follow the Municipal Asset Transfer Regulations (MATR) process, which is a competitive process with the required public participation period before concluding a lease agreement,” she says.

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