Ethekwini Municipality given nod to take the wrecking ball to China Emporium at a cost of R28.9 million

The China Emporium building has become a public safety hazard and an eyesore since being damaged by a fire in January 2022. Picture: Supplied

The China Emporium building has become a public safety hazard and an eyesore since being damaged by a fire in January 2022. Picture: Supplied

Published Sep 29, 2023


The eThekwini Municipality has been given the green light to spend R28.9 million to demolish the burnt ruins of China Emporium building in the city centre.

Despite objections from some opposition parties for the City to incur such costs, the funding to demolish the building was approved by a full council meeting on Thursday.

Situated in the western side of the Durban Central Business District, the building suffered extensive damage in a fire incident in January 2022.

A structural engineer's report, received shortly after the blaze, recommended the complete demolition of the structure due to public safety concerns and its deteriorating appearance.

According to the City, the decision to demolish the building followed a protracted legal battle with the building owners, Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd, with the intent to recover the financial costs from the building owner in accordance with the court order for the building to be demolished.

“Numerous attempts to engage with the building owners to initiate the demolition process proved fruitless,” the City said in a statement.

“The current state of the building has led to several significant challenges, including illegal dumping, unsanitary conditions resulting from unauthorised public use, the looming risk of structural collapse, traffic congestion, adverse effects on local businesses due to extended road closures, and a tarnished reputation for the Municipality,” it said.

Given the building owners' lack of action, the Municipality sought a court order, which was granted by the Durban High Court on September 22, 2022.

The court’s ruling stipulated that the owners must commence with the demolition of the building to its ground floor within six months of the order and complete the process within 14 weeks.

They were also mandated to remove all debris to prevent potential hazards. In the event that the building owners failed to act, the Municipality or its designated service provider would have the authority to carry out the demolition as specified.

Visvin Reddy, a councillor in the municipality and leader of the minor, African Democratic Change party, in opposing the decision, said the eThekwini ratepayers should not have to bear the burden of forking out the money to demolish the building.

eThekwini Mayor, councillor Mxolisi Kaunda emphasised the Municipality's commitment to public safety, stating: "The City has a responsibility to its residents. This building is a disaster waiting to happen and will result in the loss of lives."

The court order places the onus on Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd to cover all expenses related to the demolition and subsequent clean-up.

“In a proactive move aimed at bolstering public safety and creating new investment opportunities, Council approved expediting the demolition of the fire damaged structure at a Full Council meeting held on Thursday, September 28, 2023,” the City said.

The Municipality will bear the costs associated with the demolition, debris removal, and site securing, with an estimated budget allocation of R28.9 million, inclusive of VAT.

“As per the court's mandate, Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd will be responsible for covering all costs incurred by the Municipality during the demolition and clean-up process. This decisive action underscores the Municipality's dedication to safeguarding the community and fostering a secure urban environment,” the statement concluded.