Embassy owes R550 500 in unpaid rent
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Moveable property in the Haitian embassy in Waterkloof has been attached by the high court due to non-payment of rent for over 10 months totalling R550 500.
Judge Janse van Nieuwenhuizen on Friday ruled in the high court in Pretoria that the moveable property be attached and kept in safe storage until the embassy was able to settle its debt.
The embassy had failed to meet the rent obligations of about R50 000 a month.
In the interim court order, Judge Van Nieuwenhuizen said the sheriff or deputy sheriff should enter the premises and attach and remove all moveable property belonging to the embassy.
But drama unfolded when the Pretoria News arrived at the property.
A black Mercedes Benz with diplomatic registration plates was parked in the driveway and prevented a truck loaded with the furniture from leaving the embassy.
Later three more vehicles arrived and parked in the driveway.
Diplomatic police swarmed the property after they were called the moment the sheriff arrived.
An officer who cannot be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media said the embassy called police claiming there was an armed robbery taking place, only to find the sheriff and his personnel at the property.
This attracted attention as concerned diplomats from other countries that were driving past the estate stopped and asked if the Haitian diplomats had been harmed.
According to Morris Coetzee, the legal representative of the applicants and landlords Nosisi Thomaza Sotuku and Ann Hacquebord, the diplomats argued that their moveable property could not be attached as they enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
He said preventing the sheriff from performing his duties was against the law.
“But the immunity does not extend to commercial transactions.
“This order was enforced via the landlords’ tacit hypothec, which means they have the right to attach some property belonging to the tenant through a court order,” Coetzee said.
His client, who has owned the property for over a decade, had not noticed that rent was not being paid because she was mourning the death of her husband.
“She noticed that the money owed to her was substantial. That’s when she sought legal representative,” he said.
He said it also appeared as though the tenants were on the verge of vacating the premises as soon as today without having settled their debt.
Haitian legal representatives left after talking to Coetzee, and were believed to have been going to launch an urgent court application to prevent the attachment.
Pretoria News Weekend