Businesses accuse municipality of “deliberately frustrating” their attempts to grow their brand
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Durban: A KZN hardware group has accused the KwaDukuza Municipality of “deliberately frustrating” their attempts to grow their brand in the area’s business district.
Mohsin Gani, a director in the Build-Rite group of hardware stores, said their attempts to acquire a building occupancy certificate from the municipality since the latter part of 2019 has proved futile.
An occupancy certificate is issued once a building has been completed in accordance with various municipal regulations
Instead, the municipality has used the courts to deny Build-Rite’s application by raising false allegations to support their denial, claimed Gani.
“The municipality’s court action is vindictive and it's a waste of taxpayers money.”
Gani said their legal fees and lost revenue ran into millions.
He said that the municipality also attempted to block Jabula Hardware from operating a store in the CBD on similar grounds and were unsuccessful in court. Similarly, Gani suggested the municipality should drop their court action and grant them the required certification.
Build-Rite presently has seven stores in their chain and acquired a property on Balcomb Street, in KwaDukuza CBD and began building their store at the address in 2019.
This, after submitting building plans to the municipality, which were approved.
But in December 2019, the municipality successfully raised an urgent application with the Durban High Court to have work stopped on the site and prevent occupation because of various faults.
The matter went to trial and judgement was reserved during the latest sitting, last week.
Sipho Mkhize, KwaDukuza’s spokesperson, said they did not wish to mud-sling and assess building plans in the media as they respected the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
Mkhize said their comments were not made with the intention of influencing or even pre-empting the pending court judgement.
Mkhize reiterated that the court would not have granted the interim interdict if Build-Rite’s building was safe and the order was still effective, despite their repeated attempts via frivolous court applications to force the municipality’s hand on the matter.
He indicated the department of labour had also stopped construction work on two occasions, due to unsafe working conditions.
“Our actions were aimed at ensuring we don’t have a repeat of the Tongaat Mall collapse on our doorstep.”
He said, on February 19, the municipality issued Build-Rite with a 7-page letter detailing various reasons why certification was withheld.
They include administrative shortcomings, outstanding compliance certificates (plumbing, glazing, electricity, roofing etc.) the stockpiling of waste and ponding water.
The number of parking bays for the building site, encroachments in respect of adjoining buildings, objections from the roads and civil engineering departments regarding workmanship and construction, and disapproval from Ilembe District Municipality, the fire and emergency services and electricity departments over certain compliance issues.
“To date, the reasons provided have not been fully addressed and their architects nit-pick on few issues and instead of addressing issues,” said Mkhize.
“The assertion we have been delaying assessment of plans and issuing of occupation certificates is rejected. All decisions made are above board and in line with legislation.”
He claimed that Build-Rite had approached politicians to intervene and failed to get their desired outcome and wanted to be treated differently, at the ratepayers’ expense.
Mkhize said they appealed the Jabula judgement.
Gani refuted the allegations made against Build-Rite’s management and said the municipality were the ones nit-picking.
“We’ve used a reputed and experienced building contractor who will concur that the municipality wants to frustrate us with their claims. Any building will have snags and issues, but they are making it seem like it is not compliant.”
Gani said much of their findings were misleading.
“We have asked the municipality to meet with our architect, engineer and contractor on site since the February letter to work through their claims and show why some of their complaints were wrong. They are purposely ignoring us.
“They claimed the building was encroaching. We engaged two additional independent land surveyors. Both have given us reports refuting the municipality’s encroaching allegations.
Gani claimed the municipality previously refused to supply Build-Rite with their encroachment survey report, but only issued it two days ago after they made a court application.
“The report only shows one encroachment which our surveyors have also disproved.”
Gani said the municipality claimed five encroachments in their February letter and his architect had written to them about the discrepancy.
He said they consented to stipulations of the December 2019 court decision because the building was still under construction and they needed time to prepare for the matter.
He denied seeking assistance from politicians.
“We approached the mayor’s office, the ultimate person in the municipality with the Jabula judgement and a letter from our attorney, indicating the public’s money was being wasted on this matter. What was wrong with that?”
Gani said at last week’s court sitting, the municipality lawyer’s gave no indication they appealed the Jabula judgement.
The Sunday Tribune