Forum seeks to buy derelict city buildings
Durban - The controversial Delangokubona Business Forum is at loggerheads with the eThekwini Municipality over more than 20 derelict buildings it wants converted into houses for students and into offices for black-owned businesses.
The rundown buildings are situated in upmarket areas such as Windermere, Morningside and Durban North.
Some of the properties are municipal-owned, while others are private.
The forum said it had made a proposal on this to the metro four years ago. It wants the city to develop the buildings for student housing and disadvantaged people rather than demolish them.
Forum spokesperson Nkosentsha Shezi said it was also willing to buy some of the properties to develop into office spaces that it could rent to emerging black businesses.
The forum conducted inspections at some of the buildings about a fortnight ago.
Shezi said most of the buildings harboured criminals and some were being used as brothels and drug dens.
But the city accused Delangokubona of “taking the law into their own hands”.
City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said that out of 121 city-owned houses, only one had a short-term tenancy.
“We recently concluded an audit and site inspections of the (121) houses to establish their status and occupants.
“There is only one house on Campbell Avenue (in Windermere) where we have a short-term tenancy, with a tenant who is up to date with his rental. It is the only house that was alleged to be hijacked by foreigners, but upon site inspection it was established that there was no such situation, and this was confirmed by the tenant,” Mayisela said.
He clarified that the city had 51 120 properties in total - 805 were farm portions, 2 403 were sectional titles and 47 912 were plots of land.
“A report is already on its way to council giving a detailed breakdown of those properties per region and per ward. So the 50 000 houses the business forum alleges we have is factually incorrect,” he said.
Mayisela added that the business forum had submitted a proposal for the Campbell Avenue property in August. It was currently being circulated among departments to establish if any unit required it before discussing a sale of the property.
“This process was communicated to the business forums and it seems that they want to take the law in their own hands by evicting the occupants without a court order, which is in violation of section 26 (3) of the Constitution,” Mayisela said.
Shezi said inspections showed that the residential and commercial buildings were not serving any valid use, and that they should be used to benefit the homeless and students.
“We also want to create access for black businesses to have offices in what used to be predominantly white areas. Black people never had the opportunities to operate businesses in areas like Morningside and Durban North.
“These areas should reflect the demographics of our city,” Shezi said.
He alleged that the buildings, “which we saw with our own eyes”, were being used as brothels and drug dens.
In July this year the city started demolishing the first of several derelict buildings set for destruction in the inner city and South Beach areas of Durban as part of an ambitious overall rejuvenation and upgrade project that will cost more than R1 billion.
The Mercury reported then that the regeneration had been on the cards for years as the buildings - and associated high crime rates - were a danger to residents and deterred investors.
Shezi said that the buildings should be used to uplift people instead of being demolished.
“These buildings are already there. Why break (them) down when you can do them up and house the homeless and help people start businesses?” he asked.
Shezi said the forum was hoping to have a meeting with the municipality soon.