Msunduzi is gearing up to approach the high court over derelict and “problematic” buildings which are not only a health hazard but have also contributed to the grime, urban decay and the overall decline of the city.
The crackdown on the contravention of the city’s town planning by-laws could lead to some of the dilapidated and illegal buildings being demolished as well as unlicensed businesses closing down. This comes after inspections were conducted by the relevant city departments that compiled information about the by-law contraventions discovered in about 50 properties.
The municipality is now busy profiling 28 of these buildings for a detailed report that will inform the legal team who will be going to court.
According to a recent report co-authored by council’s legal adviser Mduduzi Mbokazi and town planning senior manager Atkins Khoali, most of the “problem buildings” are located on Pietermaritz Street and the surrounding area.
Some of the contraventions found in buildings that were inspected include the flouting of rezoning by-laws, illegal conversions to increase the number of rooms and a lack of maintenance of buildings. Some of the properties have been illegally converted into boarding houses, hair salons, tuck shops and even restaurants, without obtaining the necessary business permits nor having building plans approved by the municipality.
There were also health and sanitation issues that were picked up such as rodent infestation, overcrowding, a lack of ablution facilities, the accumulation of refuse in the yard and many did not have fire extinguishers.
Msunduzi has served compliance notices on the owners, but the majority simply ignored them.
Mbokazi and Khoali said the plan was for the legal team to lodge one court application for all the profiled properties.
“This would be cost effective in the sense that we are not going to have different court dates for each property but one application, since these properties are on the same street.”
The town planning unit has pledged its support in the form of investigatory findings and documentation to assist the legal proceedings against the affected property owners.
The building control unit suggested that the council considers conducting a wider inspection as the number of problematic properties might actually be more than the 28 already identified.
However, there were also safety concerns as some of the property owners and tenants were alleged to have threatened the City’s officials when they conducted their inspections.
“Although the intention is to demolish the bad buildings, consideration must be given to the city plan once the buildings are demolished as these vacant sites could possibly be invaded,” read the comment from the building control unit.
One of the derelict buildings visited by The Witness yesterday seemed to have already been invaded. It looked structurally unsafe as parts of the roof seemed to be caving in and the walls had wide cracks in them. None of the windows had any glass panes and grass grew from the gutters.
Last month mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said he was concerned about the dilapidation of the CBD and the negative impact it had on Msunduzi’s economy and ability to attract investment.
He said the potential of the inner City has been held back by allowing years of lawlessness, crime, grime and abandoned buildings left unattended.
He vowed that things were going to change for the better.
“For too long we have allowed our inner city to be destroyed by unscrupulous criminal elements, drug dealers, human traffickers and slum lords.
“Consequently most of our flagship tenants, who could do so, finally abandoned the CBD, thereby indirectly worsening the city’s overall decline,” he said at the time.