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Thursday Aug 30, 2012

Durban property owners outraged over proposed land alienation

Several Durban residents stand to lose their homes and businesses as the city is preparing to expropriate their land for its ambitious R25-billion public transport system.

Property owners received a nasty surprise when they read a notice published in The Mercury on Friday that said the eThekwini Municipality wanted to seize their land.

Durban North resident Goolam Hoosen, 62, was devastated when he learnt that his factories and office blocks in Briardene, valued at R24 million, were among the properties destined to be demolished.

"I have worked my entire life for this business and would have liked to leave a legacy for my children. This property is my children's inheritance," he said.

Hoosen's property in Sea Cow Lake Road comprises four factories and an office block.

In October he bought a residential property adjacent to his factories and said the city approved his special consent application for the property to be rezoned to light industrial.

"I submitted building plans in January and they came back with a few minor adjustments and we attended to those. I have invested millions into my business. I'm building four new factories, a managerial dwelling and offices," he said.

Hoosen would consult his attorney about his rights.

"My family were victims of the Group Areas Act. We were first moved from Riverside and then we were moved from Mayville. We cannot tolerate forced removals 18 years after democracy," he added.

If the city gets its way, all the properties earmarked for expropriation will be wiped off the map.

The first phase of the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network has been given the green light.

The project is similar to the Bus Rapid Transit system pioneered in Cape Town and then introduced in Gauteng.

Last month, the city's transport unit was granted the authority to negotiate the acquisition of land needed for the project by private treaty or expropriation. Construction would begin in March, with the aim that phase one would be up and running by 2016.

Fifty-one properties - including residential, vacant land, commercial as well as a few government properties - would be affected.

These are mainly in the northern parts of the city, in areas such as KwaMashu, Durban North, Newlands and Cunnavason (Newlands East).

The properties are to be used for bus depots and terminals.

Rose Lushozi, 82, of KwaMashu Section E, was shocked when The Mercury told her the city had published a notice of intention to expropriate her home.

"I am not aware of the city's plans, but I will call the police if anyone comes to demolish my house. Does the municipality think this home does not have an owner? They are crazy and will never take away my house," she protested.

The notice showed that not only Lushozi's home would be affected, but those of four of her neighbours, none of whom was aware that their properties were to be expropriated.

Sifiso Msomi, a partner in the property department at Shepstone and Wylie Attorneys, said expropriations had to comply with requirements set out in section 25 of the constitution.

"Accordingly, expropriations must be for a public purpose or in the public interest, and must be accompanied by compensation."

For a valid expropriation four requirements had to be met, namely: there must be an authority for the expropriation; it must be for a public purpose or in the public interest; it must be effected in a way that is procedurally fair; and compensation must be paid.

The municipality's advert states that any inconvenience, or anxiety that the expropriation procedure may cause is regretted and that every effort will be made to help those affected.

Those affected have 30 days from the day of the notice to submit written objections.

The municipality did not respond to a list of questions asking whether the owners would be compensated, how much had been budgeted for the expropriations, and if it had contacted those affected before the notice was published.

The Mercury

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