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Hostage drama at city flats

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Several Sol Plaatje officials and councillors were held hostage at the CRU flats by disgruntled tenants.

Pictures: Supplied

A TENANT from the Community Residential Unit (CRU) flats in Lerato Park, Thabiso Seekoei, has threatened to serve the Sol Plaatje Municipality with a civil claim after his name was singled out and confidential information was revealed in a statement issued by the municipality following a hostage drama earlier this week.

The municipality’s CFO, Lydia Thekisho, Speaker Nozizi Maputle and several officials and councillors were held hostage at the CRU flats by disgruntled tenants on Tuesday night.

Municipal officials and tenants were supposed to meet earlier that day, but the meeting fell flat.

The executive mayor was also not present although he was supposed to attend the meeting.

The police were called to the scene and managed to resolve the matter without any injuries. Police spokesperson Captain Olebogeng Tawana said the CFO and the Speaker have not yet opened any cases following the hostage situation.

“However, the Provincial Investigation Team is investigating a case of pointing of a firearm, after one of the residents from the flats claimed that he was pointed with a firearm, allegedly by the driver of the Speaker,” said Tawana.

The scheduled meeting between the tenants and the officials fell flat when the delegation from the municipality attempted to walk out, without providing clarity regarding the running and the lease status of the units.

Tenants locked the officials inside the yard and prevented anyone from entering or exiting the premises.

The main concerns of the tenants included whether the units are rent-to-buy or just rental, outstanding monthly payments, and their safety after the security personnel were removed from the entrances.

Apparently the tenants requested the meeting several months ago, but it was postponed due to various reasons.

According to the tenants, there are discrepancies around the running of the flats, which some started occupying about six months ago.

They added that the municipality took months to debit the rent and also accused some of the ward councillors of owning flats and sub-leasing them.

They further accused the municipality of “luring” them to the flats under false pretences, and of making a U-turn.

Most of the tenants said they were promised that the flats were rent-to-buy when they applied for the units.

They said they are now being told that they will only be renting.

Some stated that they would not have applied for the flats if they knew this in advance.

“Why will I leave the comfortable and safe flat that I was staying in and come to rent . . . forever. I could have rather looked for a plot and put up a shack,” one of the tenants said.

They said the water and electricity supply has been suspended due to non-payment and wanted answers as to why they were suffering because others are not paying.

It was revealed that there were already illegal water and electricity connections at the flats.

The tenants accused the municipality of having no vision.

“If my neighbour is being punished (for not paying) and their blocked drain is not fixed, I am obviously going to suffer equally because we use the same line,” another tenant said.

They further complained about the services of the security company, which were stopped two weeks ago.

The municipality stated that tenants who signed lease agreements now want to change the government policy of CRU into apartments for sale.

According to the municipality, the tenants who made payment arrangements continue to reverse their money after the debit order has gone off.

Municipal spokesperson Thoko Riet said the security company that was there was only to secure municipal property because there were no tenants and also because it was not fully occupied

“But now that it is fully occupied there is no reason to have security guards, we only have a caretaker,” said Riet.

“The flats are meant for the working class person who cannot get a bond nor qualify for RDP houses or whose income is so low that rental is the only option for them,” a statement from the municipality said.

The statement elaborated that the flats were evaluated to determine standard rental amounts notwithstanding the rule of maximum of 30% of gross income.

“At the initial signing of the contract, the standard rate determined through a professional valuation method was utilised. At all meetings it was made clear that tenants can come and have the rental reviewed so that it can be based on affordability. However, until now no tenant has done so.

“The affordability principle is based on 30% of gross income. Tenants’ complaints about unaffordable rates will be addressed on an individual basis.

“Most of the tenants at the CRUs are government officials with negative credit records and only have this opportunity to stay in decent housing.

“Tenants are comparing the CRUs with old rental stock and the Swedish Hull Street and Moshoeshoe Housing projects, which were developed as rent-to-buy units after seven years of tenancy.

“Buying in any way would require a loan of some sort as the units can cost anything from R150,000 to R400,000.”

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