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Pietermaritzburg - Spy on your neighbour.

That was the request from the Msunduzi Municipality to Scottsville residents on Tuesday evening at a meeting about ­illegal student digs.

Municipal town planner Atkins ­Khoali-Nyakane presented the city’s ­action plan on illegal student boarding houses crowding the area.

He asked Scottsville residents and ratepayers to assist the municipality in their investigations by taking pictures and videos to prove illegal boarding houses were operating in their ­neighbourhood.

He said the municipality was faced by many challenges when it came to ­investigating and gathering evidence and residents may have better resources to assist them.

“When we go to inspect the houses during the day, either the owners and students are not there or the owner denies us access to their premises.

“The neighbours may be there day and night and would have better access to gathering the evidence,” said ­Khoali-Nyakane.

He said residents should watch the comings and goings of students and owners and take pictures and videos and submit them to the municipality.

“In court we have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there is an illegal boarding house operating so any footage or evidence will assist us in shutting down these illegal houses,” he added.

He said some of the other issues the municipality faces is that properties were sold before the cases went to court or that owners were not living on the premises and were difficult to track down.

Another issue is should the house ­belong to a trust, all trustees must be served with contravention notices, ­however “some live in Cape Town while the others live in Johannesburg”.

“In addition, the municipal manager has told us that we need to conduct at least 40 inspections a week but there are only five town planning inspectors. Please understand the workload we are faced with,” pleaded Khoali-Nyakane.

According to Khoali-Nyakane’s ­presentation to the residents, there are only 25 legal and permissible student boarding houses operating in the ­Scottsville area. Already nine illegal boarding houses have been shut down and six have been served with contravention notices by the municipality.

Three owners of illegal student digs are currently being dealt with in court and more than five contravention notices are waiting to be served this month.

However, residents did not take well to news that seven home owners have applied to the municipality to convert their homes into boarding houses.

“My suggestion to the municipality is to completely shut down all illegal ­student digs before they approve those who have applied.

“If we approve those without getting rid of the illegal boarding houses, we will find ourselves in bigger trouble,” said one of the residents at the meeting.

Chairperson of the Scottsville ­Residents and Ratepayers Association Dr Peter Green emphasised that ­residents were not against the student digs ­establishments but rather the ­management of them.

“Scottsville must accommodate the needs of the university and the ­university must accommodate the needs of the students.

“All we are saying is the management of these establishments need to be ­managed appropriately,” said Green.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  student  |  housing

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