Pretoria - The owner of News Café in Centurion has been forced to close down after almost 20 years as a result of slow business linked to the unrepaired sinkhole on the corner of Jean Avenue and Gerhard Street.
Gerry Kanaris had been trading near the intersection where the massive sinkhole appeared in May, causing major inconvenience in the neighbourhood.
The area and roads leading to it were closed as part of a traffic management plan.
Traffic was then rerouted via a nearby petrol service station, while most motorists preferred to completely avoid the affected area.
Business people in the area previously expressed worries that they may have to close down because of delays by the City in fixing the hole.
In May, Kanaris was the first to indicate the possibility of closing shop and workers losing their jobs if the City did not urgently repair the dangerous sinkhole.
At the time, he said the street closures had adversely affected his business, located at a nearby shopping complex.
He had employed about 200 people.
Kanaris said reality had now hit home, and he was forced to break the sad news to his employees that they no longer had jobs as he had lost 90% of his business.
He said he would remain closed until the City had fixed the sinkhole.
Kanaris said at least 30 families of workers would be affected by his decision to close the business.
“I will remain closed for as long as they don’t fix the sinkhole.
“Profits have gone down by 90% because of the sinkhole and resultant road closures,” he said.
Kanaris said he had since asked his legal representatives to sue the City for neglect of municipal duties.
George Vurgarellis, who owns Mimmos restaurant in the vicinity, said he too was worried that he might have to close shop if there was no solution soon.
“We have not cut jobs as yet and are trying to hold on for our dear lives. The guys have also been here for many years; you cannot just say say to them ‘sorry go home there’s no more job’.
“We are trying to give the best food and service and hopefully customers will come back.
“We have specials to try to get more people,” he said.
Vurgarellis said he assessed the situation day by day because the delay in fixing the sinkhole had affected his business badly.
“It is Saturday afternoon and there is no one here.
“We are worried that we might have to close because every single day is a battle.
“There is no end to this. Gerry has closed and the hair salon is complaining, and we are complaining,” he said.
MMC for Roads and Transport Sheila-Lynn Senkubuge said plans were in motion to fix the sinkhole.
Senkubuge said the sinkhole was approximately 6m wide by 8m deep and there were cavities at depth.
City spokeserson Selby Bokaba confirmed a contractor would be appointed who would start to fix the sinkhole from next month.
“We are delighted to inform Centurion residents and business owners living and working in the sinkhole area that we are appointing a contractor this month who will begin earnestly with the repair work in January 2018,” Bokaba said.
The R25million project was estimated to take a maximum period of nine months to complete.
He said the City apologised for the delay in the commencement of the repair work.
It had initially been announced that work would start at the beginning of last month.
“We were tightening up our supply chain processes to ensure that we appoint a skilled and competent contractor and that the process is above board.
“We will do a site handover to the contractor this month.
“However, work will commence only in January due to the closure of most of the companies for the festive season,” Bokaba added.
“Our priority is to make sure that, come January 2018, work on the sinkhole begins in earnest and we finish fixing the sinkhole within the scheduled period.
“We’re sympathetic to all those inconvenienced by the sinkhole.
“We reiterate our sincerest apology to the staff and management of News Café as well as to the residents and businesses in and around the vicinity of the sinkhole.”
The City wished to enter into dialogue with the owner of News Café with a view to finding common ground and avoiding possible litigation, he said.