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Monday Jan 13, 2014

Previously upmarket Durban property used as drug den

A dilapidated building in the heart of Durban's Morningside seems to have been turned into a drug den run by foreigners.

This house in Morningside, allegedly being used as a drug den, is becoming a headache for neighbours.

A fed-up neighbour approached the Sunday Tribune's City Watch for help. Christine Jeffrey said the run-down house dragged down the tone of the neighbourhood.

'The double-storey house is badly dilapidated. There is no boundary wall or fence. The roof is falling in and there are many broken windows.

'It is apparent no maintenance has been done for many years. A number of squatters appear to be living there and I am reliably informed about 20 foreigners run a drug den from the premises.

'This house stands in the heart of an upmarket neighbourhood. Not only is it an eyesore, but it devalues the surrounding properties and poses a security risk,' she said.

City Watch visited the property, kept watch one night and witnessed major foot traffic at all hours. A narcotics syndicate appears to be operating out of the home, unbeknown to the owners.

To enter the house, we had to navigate overgrown weeds and piles of rubble.

Inside, the smell of effluent was overpowering.

A security guard who works in the area and did not want to be named, said it was widely known the house was run as a drug den.

'People drive here, park their cars and a guy will come out to meet them. They go into the house quickly, then come out again. This happens at all times, day and night. Last night I counted 12 people go in,' he said.

The guard said as many as 20 foreigners lived in the house under the guise of securing the property from squatters, but were using the house to peddle drugs to dealers, car guards and party-goers on Florida Road.

Jeffrey said she had written to Ward 27 councillor Marten Mayer about this.

'He told me the building changed ownership several times last year and the city was plagued by such buildings. He said he was in regular contact with the current owner, through the owner's lawyer, and had been informed the building would be demolished this year to make way for a new structure.

'He also said that only the owner of the property could have the police remove the squatters, if they are squatters. It would appear the owner is unwilling to take any action, for reasons that are not known.

'It is unconscionable that the owner can allow such a situation and the city fathers apparently have no remedy,' said Jeffrey.

Rowan Mattig, speaking on behalf of the homeowner, said the structure would make way for a modern home.

'I'm acting as a go-between for the owner as he is in and out of the country. He is applying through Amafa to have the house demolished because he wants to develop the property. That was approved by the provincial and Durban offices but there was a delay,' he said.

Mattig said he recently discovered the home had been taken over by squatters.

'Two months ago, I was asked to check the property after someone had painted the outside of the house. There were a whole lot of guys staying on the site and I asked who had given them permission.

'I found out that this individual had taken it upon himself to go to houses that appear abandoned and place tenants in houses he doesn't own. The house was literally hijacked.

'I know nothing about drugs being sold from the house and I really would like the police to get involved. If I knew that, they would have been out yesterday.'
Mayer said he had been dealing with complaints about the house for over a year.

'We know it is being illegally occupied. While it is a beautiful piece of architecture on the Berea, it would be best to see this house levelled.'
A policeman confirmed the house was now being watched. THE eradication of dilapidated buildings is part of the city's urban renewal strategy.

To establish Africa's most caring and liveable city by 2030, the city encourages role players in the property business to look after their properties.

The visual appeal of the city's landscape is influenced by the look and feel of its buildings. Dirty and poorly managed buildings diminish the city's appeal.

We look at problematic buildings seriously and assess each case individually.

We encourage residents to report dilapidated buildings so that they can be investigated.

Our investigation includes: Profiling the building. Contacting owners. Assessing the problem, whether it is a nuisance or poses a health or structural risk.

Investigating any suspected criminal activity.

Safety and security infringements must be reported to 031 361 0000.

Complaints of dilapidated buildings must be reported to 031 322 4760 for investigation.

We will report the cases of 6 Strathearn Road, Redhill, Durban; 34/35 11th Avenue, Morningside and 157 Trematon Drive, Morningside to the relevant authorities for investigation.

Sunday Tribune


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