Durban - A Durban businessman and self-proclaimed champion of the people, reputedly worth almost R1 billion, is fighting to overturn “draconian” rules at the plush Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate and this week took the battle to court.

Niemesh Singh, a property developer who has lived at the complex for more than 10 years, filed papers that take a stab at the lush green hills, litter-free walkways and serenity of Mount Edgecombe Estate Two, dubbed “Pleasantville” by wealthy residents.

The estate’s management have reacted angrily, saying they will fight Singh tooth and nail and rejecting his allegations that they rule over residents with an iron fist by enforcing a book of rules that make the estate “seem like an autonomous sovereignty”.

Singh complains that domestic workers may not walk around freely and that residents are routinely fined for “misdemeanours” and often locked out of their homes when management sees fit.

A lockout was enforced after Singh’s daughter was recorded travelling at speeds between 55km/h and 63km/h on three occasions. She was fined R1 500 for each offence.

Conduct fines on the estate range from R250 to R25 000.

According to the rules, domestic workers may only walk through the estate when the bus from the entrance to the homes of their employers is unavailable. If they are found transgressing this rule, home owners become liable for a fine.

Singh, speaking through his attorney, Sivi Pather, says he deems the regulations “heavy handed, unlawful and irrational”.

In his papers in the Durban High Court this week, Singh accuses the heads of the estate of running their “own city state”.

The Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate Management Association Two, the body which regulates the affairs of the development, is listed as the first respondent.

The papers also bring to the fore other regulations to which Singh has taken umbrage:

* The estate’s policing of roads in the complex and issuing of traffic fines.

* Depriving residents of their free choice in engaging building contractors and service providers.

* Residents being denied access to the estate when they are in arrears with levy repayments.

Another resident at the complex, Munshurai Ramanadh, is listed as the second applicant.

The minister of transport, the MEC for transport and the eThekwini Municipality are the other respondents.

Estate manager Terry Keller confirmed the association’s intention to challenge the action. “We will be responding legally,” said Keller.

In the notice document, the merit of each “illegal” rule is dissected and measured against the backdrop of the country’s legislation.

The roads in the estate, despite being in the bounds of the estate, are public roads, says Singh. However, the association has reduced the speed limit to 40km/h.

The estate management operate speed measuring devices on the site. Speeding motorists become liable for a fine. All fines need to be paid before an appeal is launched.

Singh contends that according to national road traffic regulations:

* Speed limits on public roads are set at 60km/h in urban areas, and the association is not authorised to lower the limit.

* Only certified traffic or police officers are permitted to enforce the rules of the road and operate speed- measuring devices.

Singh says residents having to pay fines before any appeal goes against the audi alteram partem principle, which means listening to both sides before making a ruling.

He also alleges that the association’s move to retain money collected from fines, instead of directing it to the municipality, is an act of corruption.

Sunday Tribune