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A prominent attorney has been ordered to evict tenants from a building he owns in the Pietermaritzburg CBD after it was discovered he had been illegally supplying electricity to the building and renting accommodation to families without an occupation permit.
The case was brought to court in May, when attorney Surendra Singh brought an urgent application forcing the Msunduzi municipality to reconnect the electricity supply to Shepstone House, a building he owns in Langalibalele Street.
But the municipality launched a counter-application for the tenants to be evicted and to inspect the bulk meter and electrical connections at another of Singh’s buildings, near Shepstone House, called the Nedbank building.
After the Pietermaritzburg High Court granted the municipality’s application, municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi revealed that electricity to Shepstone House had been disconnected in April as the building was considered unsafe and did not have an occupancy certificate.
Twenty families lived in the second to ninth floors of the 13-storey building, while the rest of the floors were being used as offices.
Nkosi said an inspection found that while the electricity supply had been disconnected, the lights in the building were on. This led officials to believe power was coming from another building.
“It is illegal to source one property with electricity from another, and even more so if the meters are being bypassed – therefore causing the connection to be illegal. The resultant use of electricity is therefore a theft of electricity which is not being metered or paid for,” said Nkosi.
He said the municipality could not restore the electricity to the meter room of the building because, not only was the cable disconnected, there was also no meter. Singh admitted he had used the bulk meter from the Nedbank building to provide electricity to Shepstone and saw nothing wrong with this.
The electricity was still being regulated, metered and paid for, he said.
Singh acknowledged that he did not have an occupation certificate, but said it was not his fault as the delay rested with the municipality.
He said the building was safe for occupation.
In a reserved judgment, Judge Pete Koen ordered that the municipality be authorised to terminate the supply of electricity, from whatever source, to Shepstone House and that Singh evict tenants from the premises, with the exclusion of the ground floor.
The sherriff of the court was authorised to remove anyone occupying any floor in the building above the ground floor.
The judge also ordered that Singh be interdicted from allowing tenants, other than those on the ground floor, from occupying the building.
Judge Koen said he agreed with the municipality that Singh’s behaviour had been egregious and that the municipality’s by-laws were either violated or ignored.
Singh was ordered to pay the costs of both the applications.
The Daily News established that the majority of tenants have already been evicted from Shepstone House and that the municipality has assisted in relocating some of the families.