Ongoing legal row between Tshwane, contractor stalls restoration of dilapidated Schubart Park
Pretoria - The ongoing legal row between the City of Tshwane and its contractor has effectively stalled the project to restore the dilapidated Schubart Park complex in the CBD to its former glory.
The restoration of the complex was part of the West Capital development, a mixed-use residential project envisaged on the western outskirts of the CBD, including Marabastad.
At the time, the City had planned to refurbish buildings in terms of designs that would adapt them into a modern-day mixed development precinct, including social housing and rental.
Chief of staff Jordan Griffiths said the development, conceived under the then ANC administration, resulted in a deal between the metro and the company called Tsoseletso Consortium.
He said when the DA took over the City after the 2016 municipal elections it sought to challenge the legality of the deal because it was effectively facilitated "outside the scope of council and outside the scope of the law".
The City had already served court papers on the respondents, who also filed their opposing papers, after which the metro duly filed its replying affidavit.
Griffiths said the litigation had reached a stage where heads of argument need to be filed for the court to allocate a date.
"This process effectively suspended any progress with regards to the infrastructure renovations in relation to Schubart Park as it formed part of this broader tender for development in that part of the city," he said.
Former head of the Economic Development and Spatial Planning oversight committee in the city Nkwane Wa Nkwane said the legal dispute between the two parties started after the committee visited the complex in 2017.
During that visit it was discovered that the contractor had not started the renovation work and was unlikely to meet the November 2017 deadline.
Nkwane said the committee then recommended that the City revoked the contract. However, the company approached the court to contest the move to terminate its contract.
Tsoseletso Consortium was supposed to take approximately 18 months to complete the project, according to a report compiled by the committee.
As far as Nkwane was concerned, the legal fight between the two parties over the contract was still ongoing while the renovation project had stalled.
“Tsoseletso had also made other legal demands to the City, and the matter was to be adjudicated by court. And for that reason the matter has been dragging. It has not been concluded,” he said.
The renovation of the buildings was part of the Constitutional Court ruling, which in 2012 ordered the City to refurbish the complex and reinstate its residents to their former homes.
That was after the metro had evicted them in 2011, saying the complex was unsafe for occupation.
The City relocated more than 500 residents to various buildings, which included Parkview Units in Sunnyside, and in Pretoria North suburbs.
It emerged this week that the City was paying at least R1 700 for each resident housed in the buildings.
Nkwane said it was worrisome that the City was spending millions of rand every year for the accommodation of former Schubart Park residents, instead of refurbishing its buildings.
“It is a very unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in. The real challenge that we have is that the people who lived in Schubart Park, the court said as the metro we must provide them with alternative accommodation. This comes at the cost to the City,” he said.
A council report showed that the then ANC administration undertook to renovate the precinct in April 2016.
Nkwane said a year later, after the contractor was appointed, the long-overdue renovation never took off.
Schubart Park was built in the 1970s as part of a State subsidised rental scheme for the benefit of public servants. It consists of four towers.
The blocks of flats boasted recreational facilities such as a swimming pool, tennis courts and community hall.
In July 1999, it was handed over to the City, which in September 2011 evacuated all residents, saying the complex had become dilapidated. In its prime, the complex was the place to be in the CBD.