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Businesses operating in Middestad, a building at the centre of a legal battle between the Department of Public Works and property mogul Roux Shabangu, are up in arms after the property was plunged into darkness when services were disconnected this week due to non-payment of municipal rates.
It is believed that Shabangu owes the Tshwane Metro about R10 million.
A council official who did not want to be named said it was true that Shabangu’s company owed the municipality, but they were still negotiating payment arrangements.
He said reconnection of electricity would not take place until they had agreed on payment terms. in line with council’s approved policy.
Judgment was expected on Thursday or Friday in the high court to have the R500m SAPS Sanlam Middestad lease deal declared null and void.
Problems at the building started when the lease agreement between Shabangu and former police commissioner Bheki Cele was declared unlawful by the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela because tender procedures had not been followed.
It is believed that it is due to this disputed lease agreement that the owners have not been able to keep up with payments.
Shabangu is said to have borrowed R248m from Nedbank to purchase the Middestad building when the lease with Cele was supposedly agreed on.
The building has been without power since Monday as the owners evidently owe the municipality more than R10m. The water in the building was cut on Tuesday afternoon. Businesses leasing spaces and shops at the building were fuming on Wednesday as they couldn’t carry on business.
One business owner who asked not to be named, fearing victimisation, attributed the problem to shady dealings. “Innocent people cannot continue with their practices because of dealings that were made under the table. They are making deals that are affecting us. I heard that Shabangu had to be called from China to come and sort out this mess.
“I find it very interesting that he has money to go on holiday while we are struggling to feed our families as business has stopped,” the business owner said.
Hleziphi Mkhiya, who works at a pharmacy in the building, said she was surprised by the attitude the owners had adopted. She said the caretaker had told the security guards to close all the entrances and not allow anyone inside as there was no electricity.
“We are not able to work, but they will be expecting us to pay rent at the end of the month. We cannot even receive stock and supplies because the lifts don’t work,” she said.