SUBSTANDARD: Damaged property in Protea Glen.

Johannesburg - Building industry regulators have denied Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s assertion that they were shielding a property developer.

The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) says the city’s Group Risk and Audit Services (GRAS) had made enquiries about the registration status of Kiron Properties last week. 

The company is among those that built some of the 1326 houses that were damaged during violent storms in the south and west of Joburg on December 30.

The city launched a probe after accusations that some companies had used inferior materials to build the houses, something thought to have led to the damage.

In a media briefing tabling the preliminary report on Thursday, Mashaba claimed that NHBRC had not responded to GRAS’s enquiry about the registration of Kiron. 

This led the investigators to suspect that Kiron could have been operating without the regulator’s credentials, which is a criminal offence that carries a hefty penalty of a one-year jail term or a fine of up to R25000 per charge.

“We wish to place it on record and categorically deny the assertion by the city that the NHBRC was not responsive regarding one of the property developer’s registration status in the affected area. Our records indicate that we received an email enquiry from the head of GRAS, Neville Walter, on March 19. The NHBRC in turn responded on March 20, confirming that the property developer Kiron is indeed registered with the NHBRC,” NHBRC spokesperson Tshepo Nkosi said.

The Star was shown emails between the NHBRC and Walter confirming Kiron’s registration two days prior to Mashaba’s press conference.

“The mayor is a liar. If you look at the approved building plans, you’ll see that those people (homeowners) built second storeys and walls that were not approved, hence there was so much damage,” Kiron’s owner, Alwyn Gey van Pittius, said.

However, Mashaba’s spokesperson Luyanda Mfeka said that as much as they welcomed the regulator’s response, it was still not clear if Kiron was already registered at the time of the storms.

The December 30 storms affected houses in Lufhereng, Protea Glen, Bramfischerville, Lawley, Snake Park and Tshepisong.

Although Mashaba during the press conference did not name the company the city was probing, the NHBRC received questions only about Kiron from his office.

“During the audit, Internal Audit could not obtain evidence that one of the builders/ developers was registered with the NHBRC as required by law. Our attempted verification of registration was through the NHBRC builder verification portal, which yielded blank results. We communicated these results to the NHBRC so that we could be provided with written confirmation and comments, to no avail. To date we are still awaiting a response,” according to the mayor’s report.

Mashaba added: “One (company) appeared to not have been registered with the NHBRC at the time of the investigation.

“Attempts by the city to fully verify this matter with the NHBRC came to no avail. As a city, we believe that the NHBRC carries the duty of ensuring that developers are registered, both as a means of ensuring compliance with legislation but also ensuring the safety of residents.”

Mashaba also said investigations had shown shortcomings in the city’s record-keeping and resulted in the suspension of three municipal officials for refusing to co-operate with GRAS.

The officials allegedly refused to release information relating to the records of some properties. Last month, the investigators could get only 31 of the 66 property files they wanted for houses in Protea Glen.

It was also noted that some files were stored in rooms meant for chemicals, resulting in delays in the investigation. Municipal investigators also realised that some homeowners in Lufhereng could not produce certificates of occupancy or that the dates on the certificates did not match with official stamps, making it difficult to establish the correct date that the certificate was issued.

The Star