Work has started on repairing the sinkhole on the corner of Jean Avenue and Gerhard Street in Centurion. Picture: Jacques Naude/ANA
Pretoria - The City of Tshwane may face a R100 million lawsuit because of delays in repairing the massive sinkhole on the corner of Gerhard Street and Jean Avenue in Centurion.

In addition, in terms of the agreement reached in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, yesterday, work on the sinkhole has to start today and be completed within six months.

The City will also take urgent steps to ensure that the intersection is safeguarded and public protected from harm. It was further agreed the City would erect clearly visible street signs to warn the public of the dangerous sinkhole.

Furthermore, on a monthly basis the City must provide the applicants and the registrar of the court with a progress report pertaining to the works that had been done during the previous month.

The matter had been brought against the City by a company called Marndre Beleggings CC and a body of persons affected by the sinkhole. Respondents included City manager Dr Moeketsi Mosola and Lorato Kegakilwe-Piki, executive director for transport infrastructure, design, construction and maintenance at the City’s Roads and Transport Department.

Read: WATCH: City ordered to repair Centurion sinkhole

Hole sinks business

Roads and transport MMC Sheila Lynn Senkubuge had said City mayor Solly Msimanga’s administration had committed R25m from the operating budget to start repairing the sinkhole.

However, one of the applicants, Gerry Kanaris, owner of the News Cafe, said that despite delivery of equipment, there had been no signs of repair work on the hole as yet.

At least seven business people have cried foul over the City’s failure to fix the sinkhole and said this had negatively affected their businesses.

Their attorney, Jacques Classen, said his clients had already indicated their intention to sue for damages due to the delays by the municipality to start repairs. The sinkhole was discovered by contractors doing roadworks on May 16 last year.

Classen said some business people within the vicinity told him they had lost at least 50% of their revenue.

A sign on the window of News Café, closed down due to the sinkhole. File picture: Jacques Naude/ANA

He said damages caused by the City’s inaction would probably be in the region of R100m.

Classen spoke to the Pretoria News yesterday at the High Court, where his clients had lodged an urgent application to compel the City to start repairs immediately.

The City said it told the court that repairs had started and the contractor was already on site.

“The court did not order the City to repair the sinkhole nor did it provide a time-frame within which to carry out the repairs. The City reached a settlement agreement with the applicant in that we would provide monthly progress reports to the registrar of the court and applicants, and that the anticipated time of completion, barring any outside influences, would be six months,” the City said.

In terms of the court order, the City would file a report to the court within 14 days on steps to finalise the repairs, what steps were taken, the contractor appointed, proof of compliance with municipal finance legislation in the appointment process of the contractor, and steps taken to safeguard the intersection and protect the public from harm.

Also read: R25m to fix sinkhole in Centurion

Jean avenue to rise again

Regarding the lawsuit, the City said: “As far as damages are concerned, the applicant hasn't instituted a court action for damages, nor has the City received a summons for damages from anyone. However, nothing prevents anyone from submitting a claim for damages caused by the sinkhole, and if and when such claims arise, the City of Tshwane will investigate and take a position in due course.”

Kanaris said: “I am happy the agreement went in our favour. The judge ruled that they have to start executing their plans now to start fixing the sinkhole.

"Hopefully, Jean Avenue and Gerhard Street will be up and running in the next six months.

“It is an excellent day for us. We are just excited.

"We are happy to move forward now and it has been a long time.”

Kanaris was forced to close the News Cafe last year after it had been in operation for 17 years due to the delay by the City to begin repairing the hole