Canteen ‘unhygienic’

2019-03-15 12:39
Gavel (iStock)

Gavel (iStock)

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The University of KwaZulu-Natal has managed to temporarily stop the operators of a canteen at Edgewood campus from preparing food in unhygienic conditions.

The university said it feared that if they continued to “cook and distribute unhygienic and contaminated food, this might result in food poisoning, illness and epidemics at that campus”.

Minenhle Development and Trading Co-operative and its founders, Dumisani Mthembu and Zodwa Mthembu, have to provide reasons why the order should not be confirmed.

This follows an urgent interdict granted in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday. While the opposing parties consented to the order, they have placed it on record that this does not imply that they are admitting any liability.

The university also wants the Mthembus to be “ejected” from the premises for failing to pay rent, but no order has been granted in relation to this.

It is alleged in the court papers that they don’t even have a lease agreement to occupy the property, which they have been doing since September 2016.

The acting manager of the UKZN Student Services Development Company, Ingrid Potgieter, who has also been permitted to represent the university, explained the need for the orders in court papers.

She said that since last November, there have been concerns about the health and hygiene of the canteen services that the Mthembus were running. Routine health and hygiene tests were performed by a compliance and risk expert, which found coliform bacteria on cutlery and crockery, she said.

Coliform and E.coli were also found in samples of chicken mayonnaise and potato salad. Potgieter said these bacteria are generally accepted as evidence of faecal contamination — germs emanating from the intestine.

It was agreed in principle that the Mthembus would stop operating their canteen until the premises had been cleared by SAI Global — a risk management, standards compliance and information business.

Initially this was not a problem because the campus was closed for the holidays.

In February, SAI performed tests and E.coli was again found in a sample of chicken mayonnaise. Potgieter said she then sent Dumisani Mthembu an e-mail saying the kitchen must remain closed and that the canteen was only permitted to sell pre-packaged items.

On February 18, the university’s investigator allegedly found chips and burgers being cooked in the canteen, which is being denied, she said.

Although the Mthembus have undertaken not to use their kitchen until they are cleared by SAI, “it is doubtful that they are complying with this undertaking”, alleged Potgieter.

She said that they have been operating the canteen since 2016 and it was contemplated that the company would lease the Edgewood premises.

The company had an earlier agreement to lease and provide canteen services at the Howard College campus but defaulted on rental payments and were ejected from those premises (in May 2018).

Unfortunately, however, it appears they took occupation of the Edgewood premises without first signing a written lease agreement, said Potgieter.

However, from October 2017, the university charged a monthly rental of R7 928. These rentals were increased from September 2018 to R8 559 a month. The company only “ever made one payment” on March 7, 2018 of R5 000 in respect of the Edgewood premises, she said.

“There is no reason why the respondents should be allowed to remain on the campus,” she said.

Aside from not paying rent, they have also failed the third health test, she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn

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