THE Democratic Alliance (DA) in eThekwini said it was shocked to note that since the introduction of the Problem Building by-law in March 2016, and the subsequent calls by the DA for its enforcement, the municipality has failed to enforce the by-law.
Local councillor, Marlaine Nair, the DA’s eThekwini Whip for Economic Development and Planning, said the DA was concerned that instead of implementing the by-law, the city has been using iTrump (inner Thekwini Regeneration and Urban Management Programme), which is an area-based management (ABM) department for the inner city.
It facilitates and coordinates the Problem Buildings programme with various line departments, including the SAPS and the Department of Home Affairs.
“iTrump is failing miserably in this regard. The ABM, which faces massive human resource challenges, is mainly focused on the inner city and has therefore, to date, only been able to tackle seven out of the 45 identified problem buildings outside the inner city,” said Nair.
She said that questions posed by the DA at the last council meeting revealed there are 95 problem buildings in the inner city and 45 in the wider municipal area.
“Not a single building of the total 140 buildings identified have been declared problem buildings. The city has stated that there is no institutional home for the by-laws and to date, no interdicts have been applied to ban new occupants from entering buildings that have been identified as problem buildings, and no applications for evictions have been made in terms of the Problem Buildings by-law, and a number of problem buildings belong to eThekwini Municipality,” said Nair.
In her 2018 budget speech, Mayor Zandile Gumede expressed how serious the city was about inner city regeneration, ridding the city of crime and grime and vowed that they would not hesitate to “expropriate” bad buildings.
“We call on the mayor to put her words into action. The municipality has a legal obligation to implement the by-law as the Full Council, in which executive and legislative powers are vested in, has duly passed it,” concluded Nair.
eThekwini’s acting head of communications, Mandla Nsele, responded:
The City’s multidisciplinary problem by-law enforcement blitz conducts monthly citywide blitz operations.
The team is made up of City Units such as Metro Police, electricity, Urban Management Zone, fire and emergency services, water and sanitation and business licencing.
Inner City eThekwini Regeneration and Urban Management Programme (iTrump) aenior manager, Hoosen Moolla, said that despite long on-going legal battles to close down buildings in the City, the team is determined to do its best.
“We are currently regularly profiling more than 90 buildings in the City. Since the implementation of the by-law we have issued a number of summons to transgressors, closed down and forced landlords to revamp their buildings,” he said.
Profiling entails regular raids to a building where the supervisor and owner are fined for contraventions. The information gathered at the raid is used in court when legal action is taken against the building owner.
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Moolla said closing down a building was not an easy task as it involved staying within the confines of the law and respecting the building occupant’s human rights.
“We cannot just swoop down on a building and evict people without any warning. We also cannot act without permission from a court of law. Profiling is very important as this gives us enough evidence to present our case in court. It shows that we regularly visited the property, spoke to the owner or supervisor and that we have evidence of contraventions of the Problem Building by-law as well as other safety and health by-laws,” he said.
“The by-law, which came into effect last year, aims to provide for the identification, control and rehabilitation of problem buildings in the City,” said Moolla.
There are different admission of guilty fines for different offences in terms of this by-law.
This by-law is enforced in combination with other by-laws as a problem building usually contravenes the fire by-law, the national building regulations, health and other by-laws.
“The by-law outlines steps to identify and label a building as a problem building. This includes buildings that are derelict in appearance or showing signs of becoming unhealthy, unsanitary or unsightly. The building may also be or appears to have been abandoned by the owner regardless of whether or not rates are being paid. A problem building is also one that is overcrowded, illegally occupied or hijacked,” said Nsele.
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“The by-law also outlines steps to be taken to rehabilitate the building and ensure compliance by owners. This includes issuing a notice of intention to declare it as a problem building to the owner and specifying what aspects of the building are in contravention of the by-law and poses safety risks to occupants. The notice will outline steps the owner must take to rectify the problem building within a stipulated time. This includes possible repairs, renovations, submitting a building plan and removing any source of danger among others,” he continued.
Moolla encouraged residents to familiarise themselves with the by-law by visiting the City’s website on www.durban.gov.za/Resource_Centre/Pages/By-Laws.aspx.
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