Johannesburg - For the past seven years, Martin Lewison and his family have been “living a nightmare”. This, he says, is because of illegal building extensions made by the controversial Gupta family to their multimillion-rand Saxonwold compound, which has affected his property, located adjacent to it on the northern side.
“For seven years, we’ve been living with this very rude building right in our backyard. It towers over our property and blocks out all our light, our rooms are all dark and we hear every single word that is said next door. It’s been a nightmare.”
But “relief” for Lewison and his neighbours is on the way. This week, the City of Joburg revealed it had given the Gupta family 30 days to submit amended or deviated building plans for illegal building extensions.
This after the city upheld an appeal by residents who have waged a war against the Guptas over the illegal alterations for years. In the city’s communication on August 29, it tells affected parties that the appeal was considered by MMC for development planning Funzela Ngobeni on August 22.
“The following decision was adopted, that the appeal be upheld, the owner of the remainder of erf 297 Saxonwold be directed to submit amended/deviation building plans to the city as per regulation A25 of the national building regulations within 30 days from receipt of this notification “The plans envisaged shall also show how the second and third-storey balconies will be screened off, therefore limiting any overlooking into portion one of erf 297 Saxonwold.”
On July 27 last year, the city’s planning tribunal committee approved a rezoning application by the Gupta family to obtain approval for the illegal building they had constructed in 2010.
The same application was rejected in 2013. In October last year, the affected owners and local residents applied to the council to appeal the decision. Then, new Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba had promised to review and investigate the circumstances surrounding the approval.
Lewison was “delighted that the city's decision had now finally” been made. “I’m definitely hopeful because now basically the council is saying to them (the Gupta family), ‘listen, you got 30 days to resubmit your plans and rectify the situation.’ If they don’t, then obviously the council must tell them to remove the building. Then the council must demolish the building and that's what we hope will happen.”
Tony Taverna Turisan, the director of legal services in the mayor’s office, said: “Since entering office, mayor Mashaba has remained resolute in ensuring that the rule of law is brought back in the City of Joburg.
“Ordinary residents of our city can rest assured that under Mashaba’s leadership, everyone will be treated fairly and equally, irrespective of any perceived political connections.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that by-laws are respected and upheld.”
The Guptas had previously come under fire from their neighbours over the illegal alterations, including the fact that the size of the building footprint on 7 Saxonwold Drive was 170m² more than allowed by the scheme.
Other violations included height restrictions, contraventions of the Architects Act, and the number of dwelling units per site.
Some residents demanded compensation for the “loss of value, privacy and amenity” to their homes and lifestyles, complaining they were no longer able to enjoy their pools and gardens owing to the “triple-storey monstrosity”.
Tessa Turvey, of the Saxonwold and Parkwood Residents Association, said: “We’re obviously very pleased but the proof is in the pudding.
"We’ve been so sceptical, particularly with all the events (surrounding the Gupta family) unfolding in the country. We’re very pleased the city ruled in this way. For the first time, we’re seeing progress and clear leadership coming through.”
Gary Naidoo, spokesperson for the Gupta family, did not respond to the Saturday Star, but has previously stated that all building regulations were complied with when the dwelling was completed.