Johannesburg - The residents of Kagiso Extension 4 in Mogale City, west of Joburg, are up in arms over the erection of a complex of flats in the area which they claim is built out of plan and is brazenly in contravention of municipal by-laws.
While work on the five two-storey buildings has stopped, the irate residents suspect this is a ruse created by the municipality for the owner to apply for compliance, which they fear will eventually be granted.
The developer, Xolani Mntongana, is reportedly based in Dubai.
Contacted for comment, the building development management department at the Mogale City municipality agreed it was aware of the construction of the blocks of flats.
Curiously, the department acknowledges it did not approve the building: “No, building plans have not been submitted; however, site development plans were submitted and the approval process is under way.”
The department further says: “The municipality has already issued a notice to the property owner to stop with the building activities and requested the owner to submit building plans for approval. The owner can apply for permission to proceed with building activities while the plans are circulating to all relevant departments for comments and approval.”
It seems to be a fait accompli to the municipality that the plans will be approved, which is a matter of grave concern to the residents.
Former high school principal Stephen Pule, a resident in the area, says he’s had his own plans to extend his kitchen rejected a few times “until we got it right”.
Pule asks: “How can the flats then be built without a plan and then be approved only after they have started building?”
Only on Tuesday did the department deliver a note, by hand, to the site halting work on the buildings: “You are herewith instructed in terms of the Act to cease the illegal building operations immediately and to submit building plans for approval. Should you continue with the building operations and/or fail to submit building plans for approval on or before 14 days legal action will be instituted against you and you will be liable for all the costs.”
This is just a formality, the residents say in chorus, the construction will go ahead despite their protestations.
The residents have knocked on all doors to make their representations known. They have lost confidence in their own ward councillor, Doreen Davids.
A meeting with the municipality’s housing manager Baby-Doll Mahlo failed to yield any results as the latter told them construction on the site did not depend on permission being granted by the aggrieved.
Mahlo allegedly wanted the residents to define what “invasion of property” means before she would hear them out. She dismissed the residents as serial whiners who “think they are special”.
The municipality’s own building inspector, Happy Rammusi, honoured the invitation by the residents to come assess the building “and he confirmed these flats were erected illegally because there were no building plans submitted for approval”.
Rammusi also took note of the discrepancies in the building.
Apart from the balconies that will look directly into the neighbouring yards, the residents complain that there is insufficient parking allocated for the envisaged traffic of tenants.
One resident is adamant Extension 4 was proclaimed a residential area “and if he is erecting these flats for business purposes, which is the case, he is then in contravention of the by-laws”.
A meeting planned with the municipal manager Pringle Raedani did not materialise as the city official was not available.
The same developer has another complex in the area that residents were opposed to initially. The municipality went ahead nonetheless and granted permission for the flats, which are now fully let.
Some house owners in the vicinity of the first block of flats have since sold and relocated.
“Do they want us all to move out now? Where to? I do not even qualify for a bond at my age,” says another flustered elderly neighbour.
Mogale City is glaringly non-committal over what will happen after the 14-day grace period.
But the residents fear it is a foregone conclusion that the approval will be granted and work will resume on the project.
But they have vowed to fight to the bitter end.
Already on their third team of lawyers, they are prepared to apply for pro bono legal assistance if their funds run out.
“Do we have to burn tyres and barricade roads to be heard?” the residents wonder.