Durban - A COMPANY connected to controversial businessman Jay Singh has been sold a municipal sports field that is going to be turned into a housing development.
Despite a concerted effort by Phoenix ratepayers to halt the development on the Redfern sports field, a construction team has moved on to the field, placed pegs and dug trenches to begin construction.
Municipal spokesperson Mandla Nsele said the site was underused and had become “a place for unsavoury activity such as drugs and theft”.
“After careful deliberation by all concerned units, it was decided that the site is suitable for a housing development. The site is zoned Special Residential 180,” Nsele said.
Woodglaze Trading manager Pravesh Inderjeeth confirmed that the grounds would be used for the construction of houses.
“All properties developed and future developments have been cleared by the eThekwini Human Settlements Department. Sports fields have been identified as unsafe spaces. The development should be seen as a positive initiative,” he said.
However, Phoenix residents and activists said they were disappointed with the decision.
Community activist John Pillay said the residents’ “Save our sports field” campaign would not be in vain. Pillay and another resident visited the eThekwini Municipality’s town planning department on Tuesday, when they learnt that the plans for the development were approved on January 16. Pillay said there were plans to build 58 semi-detached units and 34 duplex units.
“We are extremely disheartened. The development continues with no signage to indicate it. There has been no public consultation. What will happen to all the sporting activities?” Pillay asked.
Stoneham Ratepayers’ Association spokesperson Akesh Teeruth said: “At a time when the Phoenix community is struggling with all kinds of social evils, the municipality has decided to take away sports fields and play lots, and allocate these to business tycoons for housing developments.”
He also said there had been no consultation with the community or social, religious and sports leaders. Teeruth said several public meetings were held to discuss saving the sports field.
“It seems this municipality has no concern for the residents of Phoenix,” he said.
Phoenix Civic Association chairperson Alice Govender said the land was sold cheaply. “The developer is selling the houses for high prices. The money from these developments should be going into the coffers of the eThekwini Municipality. We are exploring our options on this issue,” she said.
Woodglaze Trading was previously known as Gralio Precast and Palm Civils, and lists Singh and his ex-wife, Shireen Annamalay, as shareholders. The companies have been in the spotlight for more than a decade for being awarded multimillion-rand housing contracts from the city.
Woodglaze was given a R1.4 million fine by the National Home Builders’ Registration Council in 2014 for failing to comply with building requirements at a 96-unit housing project in Newlands West.
In June 2014, a commission of inquiry suggested that Gralio, the company that built the ill-fated Tongaat Mall outside Durban, had not operated in good faith. Two people were killed and 29 injured when part of the mall collapsed while under construction.
Also that year, four housing complexes Woodglaze Trading built were removed from Singh’s control for failing to properly administer the “rent-to-buy scheme”.