Thursday, April 29, 2010

Heritage Buildings Falling Into A State Of Decay

A letter was sent to the Deputy Executive Mayor, Cllr Nancy Sihlwayi on 29 March 2010, regarding an article in the Sunday Times of 28 March 2010 regarding “Joburg to force sale of Mandela building - Chancellor House, the bldg that housed the legal offices of struggle icons Oliver Tambo & Nelson Mandela in the 50’s, is to be expropriated by the City of Jhb. After attempts to buy the property from Polokwane business man Aziz Essa failed, the city has decided that the property will undergo a mandatory sale.

This can be done without the consent of the owner, who we have tried unsuccessfully to convince to sell, said Lael Bethlehem, CEO of Jhb Dev. Agency. The dilapidated building, which has been damaged by fire, was until recently occupied by vagrants, now evicted. The structure of the building has been badly damaged and living conditions are both unsafe and unhygienic. For any building this is unacceptable. For a building of such historic importance, the situation is reprehensible, Bethlehem said”. I have said for a very long time that the only viable and effective solution to enforce the compulsory repair order and the carrying out of essential repairs to buildings falling into a state of decay is to attach the building for sale by public auction or for the Metro to expropriate the building and in this case convert the Baakens Street Police Station into a museum and the Post Office into Council Chambers.

The legal route we intend taking will be a very lengthy process running into many years and to be avoided.

A Multi Party Task Team to attend to the destruction of our Heritage buildings in the Metro with particular emphasis on Central and the MBDA (Mandela Bay Development Agency) Mandate Area has been formed on which Cllrs Herbst, Biddulph and I serve. We hold regular meetings but once again as in most cases involving the Metro, things are not progressing at the pace we would like them to. The definition of the term “essential repairs” has been raised with several officials but so far clarity is lacking. I think it is extremely important that independent legal opinion and advice should be engaged and have put this to the committee.

Clr J. Davis

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