A Cape High Court legal battle looks set to determine the future of the notorious Gympie Street in Woodstock - and could alter the character of the crime hotspot.

Local businessman Dennis Robertson, who bought nine houses and a corner shop in Gympie Street and Sir Lowry Road at an auction more than two years ago, is taking legal action to evict a dozen people who he claims are occupying six of the properties without paying rent.

Robertson has also suggested that certain of the teenagers living on one of the properties are responsible for the area's high crime rate.

Crime has become so prevalent in Gympie Street that the Kenly Flowers Wholesale in Sir Lowry Road has put up a sign warning its customers against using the street, which has long had a reputation for smash-and-grab robberies and illicit drug-dealing activities.

In an urgent application before Judge Abe Motala last week, Robertson said he had never intended to evict his tenants, despite the fact that they had never concluded any lease agreements with the previous owner of the properties, "provided that they were prepared to sign lease agreements and actually pay the agreed rentals".

"Unfortunately, certain occupants... were simply not prepared to co-operate and I have little choice but to seek their eviction," he said, later adding that he had agreed to offer the tenants annual leases with monthly rental fees of R1 000.

While some tenants accepted the offer, they neglected to pay the required R1 000 rent, Robertson said - even though a number of them were renting out rooms on the properties to other people.

Despite his tenants' repeated failure to pay any rent for their properties, Robertson said he had spent some R83 000 on repairing the properties' windows, sorting out plumbing problems, re-routing water supplies and dealing with sanitation problems.

Robertson has also had countless meetings with the residents and has tried to get local community and political organisations to liaise with them on his behalf in an attempt to get them to sign leases and pay rent.

Now Robertson wants the High Court to order the City of Cape Town to "do all things necessary" to eject the tenants who had not concluded any lease agreement with him or paid any rental.

Judge Motala last week postponed the hearing of the application to February and ordered that the tenants be given until December 9 to file a response to Robertson's claims. It is not yet known if they will oppose Robertson's eviction application.

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