People's Post

Welverdiend dispute rages on

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Twenty nine units still remain occupied in Welverdiend located in Rouwkoop Road in Rondebosch.PHOTO: Nettalie viljoen
Twenty nine units still remain occupied in Welverdiend located in Rouwkoop Road in Rondebosch.PHOTO: Nettalie viljoen

The last remaining tenants at Welverdiend, a 68-year-old residence in Rondebosch marked for demolition, have hailed a judgment given in the Magistrate’s Court for the District of Cape Town last week as possible legal grounds to support their dispute with Communicare – the owner of the property.

On Wednesday 3 August, in the matter between Communicare NPC and Ncumisa Matu, City of Cape Town and “all other occupants of the property”, Magistrate Venice Burgins ruled that she was not satisfied that the applicant had the necessary locus standi (“the sufficiency and directness of a litigant’s interest in proceedings which warrants his or her title to prosecute the claim asserted) to act and thus dismissed the application for eviction.

The judgment stated that Communicare had failed to file any Board/Directors Resolution to support its founding affidavit or a Memorandum of Incorporation nor special resolution supporting the applicant’s delegation of authority.

When People’s Post spoke to James Engelbrecht in March, the spokesperson for the tenants still living at Welverdiend, said that they didn’t even know if Communicare existed in law or if the buildings and land belonged to them.

Engelbrecht was referring to an ongoing lands claim court case that arose after year-long assertions by tenants disputing Communicare’s ownership of properties in Cape Town.

On Monday 29 November last year, the Land Claims Court compelled the Deeds Office to provide all the documents related to Communicare’s ownership of “selected properties”.

While the lands claim court case remains unresolved, and now with Burgins’s ruling, Engelbrecht, believes that whatever plans ­– including possible evictions –Communicare has for Welverdiend should come to a halt.

On hearing of last week’s judgment, Engelbrecht says he felt overwhelmed. “I have been fighting this elephant in the room since I moved here 10 years ago, not just me, many other people that are involved here,” said the 71-year-old.

On 3 October 2019, Communicare called a meeting with Welverdiend tenants, informing them of plans to demolish the building, blaming structural problems and ageing infrastructure. The company offered to accommodate all tenants in alternative accommodation at no extra cost.

In March, Communicare again informed the last remaining tenants about alternative accommodation in Communicare’s portfolio.

This week, Makhosi Kubheka, COO at Communicare, told People’s Post that about 80 tenants had taken up the opportunity while 29 units remained occupied. “All remaining tenants were offered relocation options that considered their individual circumstances. There are tenants who responded positively to these offers and have been relocated accordingly. Tenants who accepted the offer to date were those with no arrears. Communicare is still in discussion with tenants in arrears,” Kubheka said.

According to Engelbrecht, these discussions included the issuing of letters to some of the tenants at Welverdiend regarding “demand for settlement of arrears failing which – confirmation of cancellation, and notice to vacate”.

One such letter (dated 30 May) shared with People’s Post, demands that the recipient settles the arrears within 20 business days (30 June).

The letter goes on to say that failure to pay arrears within the notice period will result in the automatic cancellation of the lease “and you will need to vacate”.

“You are therefore provided with two full calendar months’ notice to vacate the premises which commences on 1 July 2022, and ends on 31 August 2022,” the letter reads.

Engelbrecht says that, to his knowledge, the tenants who still live at Welverdiend stopped paying rent once they began to dispute Communicare’s ownership of the property.

Kubheka states Communicare is the lawful owner of all the property it manages.

“All property is registered with the deeds office. Some have disputed Communicare’s ownership of the property. However, this does not give tenants the right to breach their lease agreement,” said Kubheka.

She confirmed that all remaining tenants received letters specific to their circumstances. As to whether this means that the tenants will have to vacate come end of August, Kubheka said only the courts can evict tenants after they have a fair opportunity to state their case in a court of law.

“Communicare depends on rental income and cannot continue to accommodate non-paying tenants. We rely on tenants honouring their rental agreement. If they don’t, there is no option but for the law to take its course. This is the last resort after we try to negotiate the settlement of their arrears,” she said.

With regards to the judgment given on 3 August, Khubeka said Commmunicare planned to appeal, adding that they had several grounds to appeal the judgment, including issues raised in relation to the ownership of the property, its right to seek legal recourse against rental non-payments and the misunderstanding regarding the social housing institution status of Communicare.

“The respondent is not a leaseholder nor a lawful occupant of the unit in question. Communicare respects and has confidence in the due process of the law. Communicare is concerned, however, that unlawful occupants, such as in this instance, are allowed to abuse court processes,” said Khubeka.

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