Ethekwini's hijacked building programme is showing results, says deputy city manager

17 September 2022 - 11:02 By Nqubeko Mbhele
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Ethekwini deputy city mananger Philip Sithole on Friday.
Ethekwini deputy city mananger Philip Sithole on Friday.
Image: Nqubeko Mbhele

The hijacking of buildings is a national challenge, says eThekwini deputy city manager Philip Sithole.

“In eThekwini we have a legal process to deal with hijacked buildings.

“Unfortunately it is a very lengthy process. We are working with the owners of those buildings [regarding] renovations required. Some have been renovated and are now occupied by legal occupants. Some have been turned into students' accommodation. Our programme is a staggered one based on certain zones within the city.”

Sithole was speaking at the launch of the Octavia Boutique Hotel in Inanda on Friday. It was part of a campaign by Durban Tourism promoting domestic tourism and the launch of the “My City, My Heritage” campaign as well as the Summer Travel Extravaganza to encouraging locals to discover the hidden gems within their own city.

“We have programmes in [place and they are working well]. We think by this time next year we would have achieved a lot in terms of dealing with the city’s dilapidated buildings,” he said.

This comes after human settlements minster Mmamoloko Kubayi said last week the owners of such buildings have every right to evict those who have illegally occupied them.

“For example, we had social housing that was invaded. We went there because the owner wanted to evict military veterans who we had to provide houses for. We made arrangements for that. But where there are municipal buildings, the municipality must evict,” she said.

Sithole said eThekwini had a procurement policy that supported BEE.

“We do have challenges of projects being stopped from time to time, but there has been an engagement between ourselves as the municipality and the leaders of businesses, from small to big businesses to come up with [solutions to minimise risk]. That risk has been minimised. It is not like what it is used to be three years ago,” he said.

He said investors were concerned about project stoppages by people demanding contracts.

“The framework ... emphasises that we have to work together on specific projects locally. So if a project is in KwaMashu then we need to have a way to ensure that businesses there benefit from that project.”

He added there are criminal elements that do not want to co-operate.

“So for us that is a matter for the police, but organisations like Delangokubona Business Forum or Black Business Forum (BBF) work with us, so we have been able to close the gap. Though the challenge is still there, it is not what it used to be. We have 98% sites that have not reported any stoppages of projects, but there would be stoppages in one or two because of people taking chances operating outside what has been agreed to.”

Sithole said the eThekwini municipality had opened its doors through the empowerment framework which had been discussed with business forums.

“We also encouraged private sector investors to work with local businesses and forums. Many of them have listened to that and are working with business forums and they’ve not had problems.

“We also have worked with the SA Police Service in coming up with a plan on how to deal with those who are not in line with a framework to assist us in decreasing the level of stoppages that were there before. We believe it will be something that will come to an end at some point as stoppages have dropped drastically.”

Sithole added they will work with established businesses, including major hotels, restaurants and established events to boost the city’s economy.


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