Shut them down!

2019-04-04 15:30
One of the more than 50 ‘problem buildings’ on the corner of West and Pine streets.PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

One of the more than 50 ‘problem buildings’ on the corner of West and Pine streets.PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

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Msunduzi plans to approach the high court to condemn more than 50 “problem buildings” in the CBD.

Acting general manager for sustainable development and city entities Nyakane Atkins Khoali said this was part of the crackdown on the contravention of the City’s bylaws.

He said problem buildings were not only contributing to urban decay but also often endangered the lives of those who occupied them.

He said the 50 buildings profiled were around Pietermaritz and West streets. This section of the city has been dubbed Somalia because of the influx of foreign nationals who live and run their businesses from there.

“The problem is not just with the illegal structures that are used for tuckshops but there are buildings that are no longer fit for human occupation as a result of neglect and other factors,” said Khoali.

He said the infringement committee — which consists of officials from environmental health, town planning, licensing and building control — had exhausted all other avenues to get the property owners to abide by the City’s bylaws or look after their properties.

He said the municipality had even taken their matter to the magistrate’s court but that still did nothing to deter the owners. “They come back to court and pay a penalty of R2 000. The following day they put up their illegal structures or continue operating as if nothing happened.”

He said the problem dated back to 2012 when a few illegal structures started emerging in different parts of the CBD, but now the situation had spiralled out of control. He said blitzes were conducted on a regular basis and some shops were even demolished but that still did not eradicate the problem.

Khoali added that they were using the problem buildings bylaw to identify which buildings should be condemned by the court.

Some of the key focus areas included checking whether the property was safe for human occupation, if it was built according to the approved plans and if the activities conducted inside the building endangered the lives of people or neighbouring properties.

He said the report from the legal department had already been submitted to the City’s strategic management committee for the acting municipal manager’s signature for them to approach the high court.

“A team of independent attorneys has been appointed to assist [the legal unit] with capacity … I’m confident we will see some action in the near future,” Khoali said.

On the perceived general lack of action by the City against those who flouted town planning and business bylaws, Khoali said they planned to take the operations to other parts of the CBD so more buildings would be condemned in the near future and unlicensed businesses would be closed down. “We are being blamed ... People on the ground, they want to see action. It cannot be business as usual, people want to see those properties being demolished.”

With regards to the challenges in terms of the enforcement of bylaws, Khoali said there were capacity issues as there were only three town planning inspectors and seven enforcement officers servicing the entire Msunduzi.

He said they needed at least 16 people on their team.

Some of the spaza shop owners who spoke to The Witness on Wednesday said they were aware of the City’s threats to take them to the high court.

“We will deal with it when the court papers come,” said one on West Street.

Shadow Passel said they were operating without business licences because it was difficult for foreign nationals to get them.

He said last year an extension to his shop was demolished by the municipality and his stock and equipment were taken away.

“We lost maybe R500 000 worth of items due to that demolition because we never got our stuff back. Since then we’ve been trying to get a business licence but it hasn’t been easy. We paid a lawyer R25 000 to help us but he’s been quiet since last year,” said Passel.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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