Crackdown on tenant farms

2020-02-13 14:15
A woman sleeping in one of the cubiles inside a run-down building in the CBD.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA KHANYILE

A woman sleeping in one of the cubiles inside a run-down building in the CBD.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA KHANYILE

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A raid in the inner city on Wednesday by Msunduzi Municipality officials and councillors, led to the discovery of about 20 foreigners crammed into a run-down warehouse on Hoosen Haffejee Street.

Authorities say the finding is one example of “serious overcrowding” uncovered in the city in recent months.

Municipal units including security, led by mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla, barricaded Hoosen Haffejee Street as part of the City’s efforts to clamp down on illegal structures and decay in the CBD.

The municipality was yesterday un­able to locate the rightful owner of the building.

Thebolla said as they got to the building, they noticed heaps of rubbish outside and decided to go inside to inspect.

“The outside of the building was like a dumpsite,” Thebolla said.

He said on noticing a woman leaving the building with food parcels, they became concerned and decided to investigate the occupiers.

“The living conditions are shocking. Who these people are is not an issue, the issue is the conditions that they are subjected to. It is unacceptable,” he said.

ABOVE: The building on Hoosen Haffejee Street that was raided by Msunduzi officials and councillors yesterday.LEFT: A woman sleeping in one of the makeshift cubicles inside the run-down building in the CBD.

Thebolla warned all unscrupulous landlords that the City would soon raid and close down their buildings.

He said some buildings in and around Pietermaritzburg’s CBD are being illegally used as makeshift inner-city housing, with their owners violating numerous by-laws by not providing proper ventilation or fire escapes and having “unorthodox” room sizes.

The building was said to be illegally connected to an electricity supply.

Msunduzi Municipality said some of the reasons for buildings being classified as problematic include being dilapidated, lack of maintenance, abandoned, overcrowded, dysfunctional body corporate, in arrears with municipal accounts and various other public nuisance by-law contraventions.

“We have instructed all compliance departments to come and do an investigation so that the landlord can be fined accordingly.”

An official from the municipality’s health and fire department said the building was a death trap and that people living inside faced the risk of being burnt alive.

“The fire escapes are blocked, and fire equipment is not serviced as per regulations.”

In some cases, tenants are not allowed to complain to authorities, said the official.

“Should the tenants lodge a complaint, they are evicted. There are landlords who see themselves in a feudalistic relationship, allowing their tenants to live in deplorable conditions. Their safety and health are at great risk.”

Inside the warehouse, there was an overwhelming stench. Outside the warehouse was a hive of activity with vagrants separating recyclable waste.

A woman sleeping in one of the cubiles inside a run-down building in the CBD.

Inside, multi-coloured blankets, pillows made from heaps of clothing and plastic bags of food lay scattered on the floor, while the sound of a crying baby echoed through the packed foyer.

The open warehouse was divided into multiple cubicles with blankets and makeshift curtains.

The Witness counted about 10 beds crammed next to each other during the inspection on the upper level of the building.

The tenants said they fork out between R1 200 and R1 500 a month for a cubicle, while others said they were just squatters who did not pay rent.

The warehouse has one toilet and a shower for the tenants.

“It’s dirty but there’s nothing we can do; we just have to clean up. It’s better than being out on the streets,” said 27-year-old Grace Banda from Malawi, a mother of two who said she has lived in the building for a month.

A businesswoman trading on Hoosen Haffejee Street told The Witness that they bore the brunt of illegal accommodation facilities because these attracted criminals. She said the criminals had broken through the roof of several shops and looted them in the past.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  old buildings
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