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NC High Court prohibits demolition of building

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The Northern Cape High Court has prohibited a company and a contractor from demolishing a business property in Kuruman.

THE NORTHERN Cape High Court has prohibited a company, Zinvomax (Pty) Ltd, and a contractor, Bernard Markram, from demolishing a business property in Voortrekker Street in Kuruman.

The property was owned by Transnet/Portnet and was previously utilised as the Kuruman bus station.

The companies were instructed to return the possession of the properties of the four informal traders that have been conducting business in the area, including Kuruman Propshaft and CV Centre, Friendly Fruit and Veg, Bismillah restaurant and a hairdresser.

They have also been interdicted from dismantling and demolishing and/or removing the buildings structures and/or attachments on erf 2564, fencing off, cordoning off and/or interfering with the applicant’s access to the erf.

The small informal traders subdivided the building with the use of corrugated iron sheets.

During June 2011, Zinvomax and four other applicants instituted eviction proceedings against the informal traders as they were deemed to be unlawful occupiers of the property.

On August 22 a section of the property caught alight and a section was destroyed.

The fire also damaged a section of the adjacent building and equipment and stock belonging to Zinvomax was damaged, where Bernard Markram was contracted to remove the rubble.

Poles were also erected around the adjacent building and sections were fenced off, where access was only given to trucks delivering stock to Zinvomax and Markram.

In court documents, Micheil Hendrik van Niekerk Bester, a fuel and gas depot business owner on the premises, stated that the burnt rubble and sheets of corrugated iron from the partially burnt structure were thrown in a heap in front of the building.

“This is despite the fact that the informal traders were in the process of re-erecting the sheets that were salvageable to resume their businesses.”

It was indicated that on September 13, the gate of the partially burnt structure was welded closed, where the informal traders and their clients were unable to access the property.

During September 20 the partially burnt structure was demolished and the concrete floor was removed.

Bester stated that it was conveyed to the informal traders that Zinvomax had “deep pockets” and that they would proceed with demolishing all the buildings on the property.

“They are effectively taking the law into their own hands in an orchestrated attempt to despoil the applicants and interfere with their occupation and access to and from the property and evict them. “

A lawyers letter sent by Matthews and Partners advised that, according to a structural engineer, the buildings damaged by fire did not sustain any structural damage.

The Northern Cape Civics Organisation reported the matter for investigation by law enforcement agencies and the public protector.

Weavind & Weavind Attorneys, on behalf of Zinvomax and Markram, on September 10 stated that the applicants were intimidating their clients.

They indicated that a decision was taken to demolish a structure that was destroyed by fire due to health and safety concerns for the general public.

“None of the structures occupied will be affected by the demolition.”

Matthews and Partners indicated that their clients were not making any direct contact with the respondents, who in turn were intimidating them.

“Our clients were instructed to vacate the premises and fencing them in amounts to intimidation. Our clients are in lawful possession of the structures.”

It was stated that Wim Jacobs had suffered some fire damage to his moveable property and that he would continue conducting business from this structure.

“The burnt structures do not create a risk for the general public. The occupiers of these structures are busy clearing away the rubble and can reconstruct their structures. Your client’s fence will not protect anybody. It is merely designed to prevent our clients from accessing their premises.”

The attorneys added that they would bring an urgent application to prevent Ga-Segonyana Municipality from cutting off the electricity and water supply of their clients.

Harold Robertson is appearing on behalf of the business traders, while Zinvomax and Markram are represented by advocate Dries van Tonder and Sharon Erasmus.

The matter will resume in the Northern Cape High Court on October 22.

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