We won't be deterred or intimated says MEC Madikizela
17 Jun 2021 14:32
Eastern Cape MEC for Public Works & Infrastructure, Babalo Madikizela, on Thursday described recent protests by a group of North Crest Flats tenants as just 'delaying tactics' aimed at intimidating and emotionally blackmailing government from solving a recurring crisis in both the Old and New North crest Flats.
The MEC said that Public Works and Infrastructure is the custodian of the Eastern Cape’s immovable assets and as such has to ensure that assets are utilized for the benefit of the people with the future in mind.
"The 6th Administration undertook to delve in the property space first as a step towards seeking to utilize government property to empower the previously disadvantaged property developers, secondly to encourage investment in our province and thirdly to raise revenue in order to augment the Provincial fiscus," he described.
"These key thrusts necessitated the department to look at the overall lease register and I confirm that anomalies were identified. Some tenants had valid leases but were not paying rent, some tenants were occupying properties with leases expired and not paying rent, the last category are the same as in the North crest flats that; tenants were occupying properties and government had simply no clue who was occupying which flat for what duration ought to be paying what rental."
He said that the group of alleged North crest-flats residents who marched on Friday 12 June 2021 and handed over a memorandum, "made wild and preposterous allegations which may not be left unchallenged that among others I as the MEC was influencing court processes and I have 'captured the Judge President'."
MEC Madikizela noted; "I wish to state categorically that, neither I nor any member of staff from my department has held discussions with Judge President Selby Mbenenge or any member of the judiciary regarding cases with the view of influencing the outcome thereof.
"I further wish to state that I did not at any point mention that I have already discussed with any member of the judiciary to have the eviction cases currently pending before the Mthatha High Court prioritized and have no intention of doing so even in the future. I abide by the cardinal principle of the independence of the Judiciary.
"The public must know that these are baseless and only seek to get my and the department’s eyes off the ball. It must be noted that the department on an annual basis pays rates and water charges for the said properties to KSD and OR Tambo Municipalities respectively to the value of R12.3million without collecting a cent; unequivocally meaning Public Works and Infrastructure is subsidizing residents, a function the department is not mandated to perform.
"We acknowledged this reality and thus convened meetings with people we thought were tenants and communicated the departmental stance on the said properties as follows: that occupants must regularize their occupation on the flats by entering into a lease agreement with the department at determined rental amounts by the landlord."
The MEC said that simultaneously the department started a process of sectionalizing the flats and performing valuations all with the end goal in mind being, disposing the flats to tenants.
"The negotiations pertaining to years of maintenance as raised have never been an issue as we have assured the to be tenants that this matter would be entertained on disposal which, the department wants to conclude speedily to avert further bleeding the provincial fiscus. In any transaction there has to be two parties, however in this instance there is neither a natural person nor a juristic person available to conclude the transaction with government," he said.
"We have through the State Attorney hired a law firm to facilitate the leasing discussions and I confirm that some residents have come forth and signed. I am aware that the department has instructed the Attorneys to continue with evictions because the occupants do not seem keen to undertake the first step to regularize their stay and thus have a right to negotiate.
"We are clear about the key strategic thrust of maximizing the potential of government’s property portfolio and will neither be deterred nor be held to ransom by a few to the detriment of the majority of the people of the Eastern Cape. We are committed to building the Eastern Cape We all want, free of poverty and underdevelopment."