CBD tenants say their landlord violated town planning by-laws by upgrading a building without approved plans and they had to close their businesses to protect staff and customers. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA/African News Agency (ANA).
Durban - A car dealership in the CBD has had to close its showroom, fearing for the safety of workers and customers at a building they allege is being extended illegally.

Bilal Jeewa, branch manager at Thekwini Toyota, Pixley KaSeme Street, alleged that for eight months it has operated in unhygienic conditions due to construction.

He said the owner of the building, Mohamed Joosab, was adding an extra storey for student accommodation.

Jeewa accused Joosab of disregarding the city’s town planning by-laws by extending the property without approved plans and has urged the municipality to act swiftly.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Jeewa, pointing to collapsing ceiling boards and swamped walls in his showroom. He said a town planning inspector told them no plans had been approved.

“We were concerned from the start of the construction. The contractors removed the roof upstairs and we had extensive water damage in our showroom. The condition has deteriorated. The building has become unhygienic for staff and customers.

“We have pointed this out to him, but he does not hear our concerns. We had no option but to shut down.”

Jeewa said a structural engineer was hired at their own expense who advised them to vacate the premises. “He said it was too dangerous.”He said he had also notified the city building and fire inspectors because water was flowing into the electricity box and light fightings.

“We were not given any notice about the construction; we only got to know about it when water began to seep into our floor. When we approached him, he said he did not need to inform us as it is his business and we are just tenants,” Jeewa said.

Another tenant Ismail Patel of City Motors expressed similar concerns. He said there was no consultation and he suspected the landlord was flaunting building by-laws.

“He generally does not look after the building. There were instances where we had to pay from our own pockets to fix the damages.

“We want the municipality to act on this and ensure everything is done according to the law,” he said.

Joosab admitted that he has not received approved plans from the city.

“There is a demand for student accommodation and the city acknowledges that. Inspectors have been on the site and they know what I’m doing.

“We are not changing the shape of the building we just going higher up. In terms of the national building regulation we can start building while plans get approved because it’s still within the zoning,” said Joosab.

City Watch asked a town planning inspector to verify Joosab’s claim about the national building regulation that allows construction without approved plans and he said, “there was no way that construction or renovations can take place without the city’s approval”.

He said the approval took between 30 days and three months.

City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said an inspector would visit the site soon and was waiting for a response from the department of town planning which did not come at the time of going to print.

Sunday Tribune